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Speaker Mapisa-Nqakula on ‘special leave’ after corruption claims speculation

Speaker Mapisa-Nqakula on ‘special leave’ after corruption claims speculation
Speaker of the National Assembly, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Ngqakula. (Photo: Phando Jikelo / African News Agency / POOL)

Late on Human Rights Day, National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula stepped aside from public office under a cloud of corruption allegations and amid rumours of her possible arrest.

On Thursday, National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula became the first speaker of democratic South Africa to take special leave from the responsibility of heading the legislative sphere of state.

Two days earlier, a raid by the Investigating Directorate (ID) on her Johannesburg home triggered speculation about her possible arrest in connection with bribes of millions of rands solicited while she was defence minister.

“Given the seriousness of the allegations and the attendant extensive media speculation, I have decided to take special leave from my position as speaker of the National Assembly, effective immediately,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.

“This decision by myself is meant to protect the integrity of Parliament and ensure its sacred duty and its name continue unblemished.”

Her announcement came about four hours after a parliamentary statement that said Mapisa-Nqakula “is leading a multi-party delegation … to the 148th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland”. 

‘Ready to cooperate’

Mapisa-Nqakula said her lawyers had been in touch with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to inform it “of my readiness to comply and cooperate should the need arise”. Despite Tuesday’s ID raid, she said that to date “no formal notification of an arrest warrant or communication of an imminent arrest” had been communicated either to her or her legal team.

The secretary to Parliament, Xolile George, had been informed, as had President Cyril Ramaphosa and the ANC, Mapisa-Nqakula said. She would not have returned to Parliament after the 29 May elections as her name was not on the ANC candidates lists.

Presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya told Daily Maverick, “[This] is a matter of due process and that process must be allowed to run its course.” 

The ANC noted Mapisa-Nqakula’s special leave and said, “The ANC will enforce its integrity and step aside policies based on the facts as they arise.”

Mapisa-Nqakula is taking special leave three parliamentary sitting days before the National Assembly rises on 29 March for the elections, with an eight-week constituency period.

It was not the resignation that DA Chief Whip Siviwe Gwarube and others in opposition parties had called for in the wake of the raid. However, it effectively means Mapisa-Nqakula has snubbed the ANC’s closing of ranks.

ANC Chief Whip Pemmy Majodina on Tuesday said the investigation against Mapisa-Nqakula had yet to fully unfold and that the Speaker had rights like any other South African.

In Tuesday’s presidential Q&A session, House chairperson Grace Boroto dismissed DA leader John Steenhuisen’s question of whether Ramaphosa would support the call for the speaker to resign as “gossip” and a “cheap shot”. It was ruled a new question that Ramaphosa did not have to answer, and he didn’t, saying, “Your ruling is my command.”

‘Bribes were solicited’ — whistle-blower

The corruption claims against Mapisa-Nqakula date back to her time as defence minister and relate to bribes a defence contractor turned whistle-blower claimed were solicited at a series of meetings. The total amounts vary between R5-million, when this was first reported in 2019 by City Press, to R2.3-million when the Sunday Times earlier in March reported on the ID investigation.

In 2021, the corruption claims came before Parliament’s joint standing committee on defence when United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa asked for an investigation. However, legislators dropped the probe in September that year over non-cooperation from the whistle-blower. 

That person is now known to be Nombasa Ntsondwa-Ndhlovu, who has submitted an affidavit to the NPA, according to the Sunday Times. And it was Holomisa who laid criminal charges with the police, as Mapisa-Nqakula in April 2021 said he should do.

‘Nothing to hide’

Throughout, Mapisa-Nqakula has maintained her innocence and denied wrongdoing. In the wake of Tuesday’s raid on her home, a statement issued by Parliament said, “The Speaker steadfastly upholds her strong conviction of innocence and reaffirms that she has nothing to hide.

Mapisa-Nqakula’s special leave comes two years and seven months after Ramaphosa appointed his former defence minister as speaker in his August 2021 Cabinet reshuffle.

Ramaphosa would have been aware of the claims against Mapisa-Nqakula, as he would have been of the controversy over reports that in 2014 she had, according to the Sunday Times, “smuggled a … woman with a false passport into South Africa on an air force jet”.

In September 2020, Ramaphosa fined her three months’ salary, to be donated to the Solidarity Fund, for allowing a group of ANC leaders aboard an official air force flight to Zimbabwe. The ANC had to repay the R232,000 cost of the transportation.

During her stint as defence minister from 2012 to 2021, the military’s financial floundering and equipment disarray solicited widespread criticism.

However, Mapisa-Nqakula’s move from defence minister to National Assembly speaker was sparked by her contradiction of the President’s description of the July 2021 riots as a “counter-revolution” rather than an insurrection. She subsequently apologised. In some ANC circles the move was seen as the removal from the Cabinet of an insufficiently loyal person.

On Thursday, Mapisa-Nqakula framed her decision to take special leave as one arising from her “utmost respect for our legislative system and the laws of our nation, some of which I have been privileged to pass”, and a reaffirmation of “my commitment to upholding the integrity of my office” and commitment to fully cooperate with law enforcement agencies.

“I will also not be attending the long-planned 148th session of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly taking place in Geneva, Switzerland,” she said. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Kevin Venter says:

    OMG! How many more of these are the voters going to allow before they actually wake up and smell the roses. I don’t believe there is a single honest ANC member in any administrative position in this country. When the UN is supplying food parcels and the government is then selling those to the civilians, perhaps that is when the voters will wake up, but then again maybe not.

    • Tony B says:

      Kevin, I live in a small village in the Eastern Cape.
      The infrastructure here [like elsewhere] is collapsing.
      Several days, each month, without water – electricity is OFF several times a week [apart from “loadshedding”] as components wear out [preventative maintenence is a foreign concept], no job opportunities, etc
      And yet when I ask individuals, the majority tell me that they will vote ANC.
      Why?
      They’ve been told [and are convinced] that if they don’t vote ANC they’ll lose their social grants.
      Over 19 million people in SA on social grants = guaranteed votes for the ANC.

      • Kevin Venter says:

        Yip, welfare state which plays so well into vote buying. So the ANC very cleverly are using tax payers money to buy votes through the social grants.

        I don’t see how it is ever going to get better.

      • Random Comment says:

        There is a regular poster on moneyweb, “Sensei”, who goes on and on about how the Communist (ANC) States steals from those who create wealth and redistributes it to those that don’t; and how bad this is for the entire country.

        Your comment vindicates everything he says about how the modern South Africa functions. All of those who fall into the former category are voting with their feet and in increasingly material numbers.

  • Arno Stijlen says:

    Are there any ministers, senior government officials and other state sponsored high ranking state officers and other civil servants that is not on the take, corrupt or involved with any direct or indirect theft, fraud etc.? NEE MAN!!! Every week another name, another revelation!

  • Arno Stijlen says:

    Yes, I knew all along that the social grants was the big elephant in the room that is going to keep the ANC in power! Mission accomplished and great ANC strategy!! (One has to admit!)

    • Dawn Pretorius says:

      What is surprising about all the corruption we are experiencing in the public sector is to note that the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2023 indicates that South Africa’s score of 41 out of 100 almost reflects the global average score (43) of 180 countries. A score of 100 reflects a clean reputation and 0 reflects a country as highly corrupt. It also confirms that every region is either stagnant in its overall corruption efforts or showing signs of decline, that is, becoming more corrupt than previous years..
      This index is based on perceptions of how corrupt each country’s public sector is perceived to be. The score represents a combination of at least three data sources drawn from thirteen different corruption surveys and assessments on ‘the abuse of power for private gain’ that are collected by different institutions such as the World Bank and the World Economic Forum.
      e.g. where are public funds diverted? Do they take bribes? Is cadre employment and deployment a constant feature? Has state capture occurred?
      It does not help us to know this information, of course, but it is sad to note that the world is slowly throwing ethics and the rule of law out of the window.

  • Egmont Rohwer says:

    “This decision by myself is meant to protect the integrity of Parliament and ensure its sacred duty and its name continue unblemished.” – Oh my word. Hahahahaha

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      We let them get away everything, every leave is special sick, annual, family responsibility the list goes on but the speciality is always specified.
      A special leave without a tittle cannot be lawful and can be unconstitutional, leave is one subject that cannot be left for interpretation as people get paid whilst not working.

  • Iota Jot says:

    “This decision by myself is meant to protect the integrity of Parliament and ensure its sacred duty and its name continue unblemished.”

    Ho, ho, ho. A bit late to protect and ensure integrity.

  • Paul Alberts says:

    She was fired as minister of defense and appointed as national speaker by the same idiot that fired her. Hey Charles ( that is the Communist husband ) why are you so silent ? I was under the impression that communists are the working class.

  • John Patson says:

    Special leave with full pay which will last at least till the election. Nice number if you can get it.

  • Random Comment says:

    This is the NEW!, IMPROVED!, HONEST! ANC brought to you by Cyril & Pals, after the findings of the Zondo Commission and the public outcry.

    It appears that the ANC are ALL GUILTY of corruption (and worse), unless proven otherwise.

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      All corruption in the ANC happens in a obvious way that no one can deny knowing about it, they confess of protecting individuals during the state capture era, yes an inference can be safely drawn that the current ANC is unfortunately corrupt to the core.

  • Siyabonga Kameni says:

    What a disgrace

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