South Africa

PARLIAMENT

From Defence to National Assembly, Mapisa-Nqakula is ANC’s new Speaker-elect as opposition balks

Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula during a media briefing .(Photo by Gallo Images / Rapport / Deaan Vivier)

Ex-defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula emerged as the new National Assembly Speaker-elect, at Tuesday’s special ANC parliamentary caucus.

The writing had been on the wall since President Cyril Ramaphosa announced during his 5 August Cabinet reshuffle: “Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula will be deployed to a new position.” 

Thandi Modise, the National Assembly Speaker, was announced as the new defence minister to take over from Mapisa-Nqakula.

As President, Ramaphosa heads the executive, but not the legislative sphere of government – Parliament. According to Section 52 of the Constitution, a Speaker is elected by a majority of MPs in the National Assembly. 

Given that the ANC holds 230 of the 400 seats, Mapisa-Nqakula is pretty much a shoo-in for the post – even if opposition parties are set to make it uncomfortable. The election of a new Speaker could happen as soon as next week when lawmakers officially return from their 10-week constituency recess. 

Following various governing party discussions, on Tuesday morning the ANC in Parliament held a special caucus, addressed by ANC national chairperson and Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe.

That’s where Mapisa-Nqakula’s nomination as National Assembly Speaker emerged. 

“Caucus welcomes her nomination and candidature as Speaker-elect, especially in the Year of Charlotte Maxeke as well as the commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the 1956 Women’s March to the Union Buildings,” said an official ANC parliamentary caucus statement afterwards.

Mapisa-Nqakula served as ANC chief whip from 2000 to 2001, and has participated in the governing party’s political committee in Parliament.

“Former minister Mapisa-Nqakula brings a formidable wealth of experience to the new position with a solid track record as a legislator and policymaker spanning over a number of years”, according to the ANC in Parliament.

 Not so for the opposition.

The DA will consider its options during its Thursday caucus. This could include fielding a different candidate, or indicating dissatisfaction by voting against the former defence minister now turning Speaker.

“Mapisa-Nqakula has one of the worst parliamentary attendance records and also a bad track record on question replies. She is a person who has shown executive mindedness and will not defend Parliament,” DA leader John Steenhuisen told Daily Maverick. 

“It’s going to play into the attempt to subjugate Parliament.” 

United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa said his party would still ensure Mapisa-Nqakula was subject to the Joint Standing Committee of Defence inquiry over the reported receipt of R5-million between 2017 and 2019.

“We are still going to expect the newly appointed Speaker to appear in front of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence to answer about her extortion where she demanded money from a service provider.”

Holomisa had complained to the committee in April 2021.

“The ANC is not serious about running this country… If someone does wrong in the ANC, instead of being punished you are rewarded,” Holomisa told Daily Maverick. If anyone still believes in President Cyril Ramaphosa, they are wasting his or her time.”

“It is a mistake,” was Freedom Front Plus chief whip Corné Mulder’s response. “If it was about merit, Parliament as an institution, it would have been a competent Speaker.” 

IFP chief whip Narend Singh said: “The floor of the House will decide. We, as the caucus, will have to apply our minds whether to support this or not.”

Concerns raised regarding Mapisa-Nqakula also include not having been held to account for bringing her son’s girlfriend into South Africa on a military plane, as the Sunday Times reported in May 2016.

Many also believe she received just a rap over the knuckles for giving ANC officials a lift on a military plane to Zimbabwe during strict lockdown. In September 2020, Mapisa-Nqakula was fined three months’ salary, which was to be donated to the Solidarity Fund following a presidential rebuke. 

Clearly, Mapisa-Nqakula as National Assembly Speaker was part of Ramaphosa’s overall Cabinet reshuffle considerations. The ex-defence minister still holds constituencies in the ANC, even if these increasingly became aligned to those close to ex-president Jacob Zuma and his supporters, which Ramaphosa, as governing party president, can’t afford to alienate ahead of the ANC national elective conference in 2022.

As TimesLIVE reported, Mantashe told the ANC parliamentary caucus that Mapisa-Nqakula was the preferred candidate for Speaker. 

“We are throwing that to caucus because caucus has the authority to deal with that issue. We hope she will be a candidate and will be selected as Speaker,” Mantashe reportedly told the caucus.

The subsequent ANC parliamentary caucus statement confirmed Mapisa-Nqakula as its choice of Speaker-elect. 

While the ANC has the numbers in Parliament to ensure the former defence minister becomes Speaker, it may just be a raucous occasion in the House, and a sign of things to come for Speaker Mapisa-Nqakula. DM

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All Comments 7

  • Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Charlotte Maxeke and the 1956 Women’s march to the Union buildings in one sentence don’t augur well. 🏃🏽‍♀️🏃🏽‍♀️🏃🏽‍♀️🏃🏽‍♀️🏃🏽‍♀️🏃🏽‍♀️🏃🏽‍♀️🏃🏽‍♀️🏃🏽‍♀️

  • “Mapisa-Nqakula has one of the worst parliamentary attendance records and also a bad track record on question replies. Not sure if this is a reward or some form of punishment for her.
    Time to do some real work away from military jets!

  • No mention is made that the department of Correctional Services was captured by Bosasa under her watch and despite a damning report by the SIU (she received in 2009), she did nothing for ten years; in effect protecting the corrupt contract of the Bosasa group of companies and allowing it to continue. How can such a person occupy the hallowed seat of Speaker of Parliament