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Waiting for Mapisa-Nqakula’s arrest — times of turbulence ahead

Waiting for Mapisa-Nqakula’s arrest — times of turbulence ahead
National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

The apparent imminent arrest of the National Assembly Speaker, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, comes at the worst possible electoral time for the ANC. It is also a sign of how accustomed to corruption by ANC figures we have become that when the head of one of the three branches of government faces arrest, there is only a muted reaction.

On Monday, National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula launched an urgent application at the Gauteng Division of the High Court in Pretoria arguing that she should not be arrested. This followed reports that a defence contractor made a sworn statement stating she paid Mapisa-Nqakula R2.3-million in bribes for tenders while Mapisa-Nqakula was the minister of defence.

The fact that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) opposed her application is apparent proof that officials are planning to arrest Mapisa-Nqakula, who seems determined to dig in.

She has claimed the NPA wants to “humiliate her” but has not given any evidence of a campaign against her.

This could turn into a long fight. The ANC will probably have no choice but to defend her. Already, over the weekend President Cyril Ramaphosa said that “there is a process that must unfold”.

Last week, after it emerged that her home had been raided by members of the NPA’s Investigating Directorate, the ANC caucus rubbished attempts by DA leader John Steenhuisen to introduce the subject during Ramaphosa’s Q&A session.

However, Ramaphosa said, “We must rely on those institutions [the NPA, the police and the courts] to do their work, and when we give them space and the opportunity to do their work, then we will be successful.” 

There is an important point here.

In 2007, when the NPA was about to arrest the national police commissioner Jackie Selebi, then president Thabo Mbeki took the unprecedented step of suspending the head of the NPA, Vusi Pikoli. This was a deliberate attempt to stop Selebi’s arrest and it appeared that Mbeki was trying to protect a friend.

In the end, however, Selebi was convicted.

It is unlikely there will be such drama this time around.

Certainly, the fact that all of this has happened so publicly makes it difficult for the President — or anyone in the government — to try to intervene.

It is worth repeating how significant this situation is.

She will fight

As Speaker of the National Assembly, Mapisa-Nqakula is the head of one of the three branches of the government, along with the President and the Chief Justice. She is fourth in line for the presidency should the President be unavailable.

Never before in SA has someone at this level of government faced arrest.

While she has said that she was about to retire and was not available for nomination to Parliament after the elections, she surely will fight to avoid imprisonment.

There are several reasons to believe this issue will remain front and centre for several months.

The first is that Mapisa-Nqakula has not stepped down as Speaker. Rather, she has said, unilaterally, that she has taken special leave.

As Daily Maverick’s Marianne Merten has pointed out, it is not clear that she has the power to do this.

The DA has said that the National Assembly has to take a resolution to allow her to leave office temporarily, and the party has lodged a motion of no confidence against her.

Already one opposition party has made a big misstep here.

On Friday, UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said on X and several radio stations that Mapisa-Nqakula had been arrested and was at the Pretoria Central Police Station.

Holomisa was wrong, and this important factual inaccuracy may well mean that some voters (and journalists) struggle to take him at his word.

But, for the moment, the party in a difficult position is the ANC. Mapisa-Nqakula has been in the top tier of government since 2004. She is the ultimate ANC insider, and its MPs will surely feel they cannot abandon her now.

However, to defend a person who has been arrested will have huge implications for the party’s election campaign, especially when it is trying to convince voters that it has changed.

How can the party’s canvassers on door-to-door campaigns claim the ANC has changed if the leadership defends a person who has been arrested for corruption? And this is after the ANC leader himself has said the party is perceived as “Accused No. One”.

The manner in which she may now be allowed to break or bend Parliament’s rules over her “special leave” will allow opposition parties to point out that Mapisa-Nqakula has a track record of wrongdoing.

In 2016, when she was defence minister, she sent a government plane to Burundi to bring to South Africa a young woman with a false passport.

She has not denied it, but defiantly said she would do such a thing again, under similar circumstances.

Also during her defence minister days, Mapisa-Nqakula was disciplined by Ramaphosa for allowing senior ANC officials to hitch a ride on an air force plane, so they could meet with members of Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe.

And yet, despite all of that, it was Ramaphosa and the ANC who decided she should be the Speaker of the National Assembly — the head of the legislative branch of government. 

It is of course possible that Mapisa-Nqakula resigns as Speaker.

While that would remove much of the pressure from the ANC, it would not be the end of the matter.

Her arrest, should it happen, will still be a massive story that reflects badly on the party.

But in the National Assembly, one of the people who could have to chair proceedings in her place is the chair of chairs, ANC MP Cedric Frolick. However, the ANC’s Integrity Commission has said he should not be on the party’s electoral lists because he received money from Bosasa.

This means the ANC will be accused of replacing a person arrested for corruption with someone else who faces serious questions.

The stakes are high for the NPA too. If it goes ahead with the arrest and then has to drop the charges or withdraw the case for some reason, it will be accused of political manipulation just before the elections.

The possible arrest of Mapisa-Nqakula and the almost muted reaction to it are signs of the extraordinary times in which we are living. Be prepared for unexpected events which can affect the outcome of the 29 May general election. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.


    And still there are some in the media that urges voters to vote ANC because CR and the “good guys” in the ANC are playing a “long game”. There are no “good guys” in the ANC. They are corrupt to the core, and have been so for a very long time.

    • Nick Griffon says:

      They are all corrupt. Every single one of them.

    • Malcolm McManus says:

      Yes, and in terms of the older Stalwart comrades, and even the deceased ones, certainly decades longer than just 30 years.

    • Glyn Morgan says:

      What are Peter Bruce’s thoughts on this?

      • PETER BAKER says:

        He would have the same old same old blaah blaah…..from the self-proclaimed “liberal press”….they have all mis-read the ANC from every perspective and every one of the heinous ANC
        operatives…..from Zumatela to el Presidente Ramaphoria, there are no good eggs in the ANC hamper. the sooner the liberal press grows some testicles and points themselves in the right direction….the better we all shall be….and they have saddle sores from so much sitting on the fence.

    • Titus Khoza says:

      But do you also know that you are lying?
      Who is “every single one of them?
      Or maybe you only good at lying and at telling seeing the true facts?

  • Richard Bryant says:

    I can’t wait to hear details of how she extorted her bribes. There will be details of WhatsApp’s, sound recordings and possibly even videos. The bribe payer seems to have made sure she received clear receipts in her quest not to go to jail for the blatant corruption of the ANC. I just hope she has protection. Remember how the hyenas attacked Khwezi when she dared give evidence against one of the brethren.

    It will expose how blatant, arrogant and purely criminal the top brass of the ANC are. And given this, it’s also likely this is just the tip of the iceberg. There will be many others. The minimum sentence she is facing is 15 years. It will be difficult for Ramaphosa to give pardon for that. Maybe, just maybe she will start to open that cupboard with all the smallyana skeletons?

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      She really does not seem to be confident about being innocent hence her desperate attempt to prevent the arrest.
      Equally worrying is the critical portfolio of defence that she was heading.
      One wonders why such people are appointed in defence where the core existence of South Africa is being protected.
      Another ANC failure.

  • Steve Davidson says:

    Just another ANC ‘crook-in-a-doek’.

  • paul Volker says:

    The arrogant belief that she shouldn’t be arrested like every other common criminal! And I bet that we, the taxpayers are funding her legal team.

  • Temba Morewa says:

    I often wonder how a normal citizen would have been treated. The privileged…

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    Don’t be holding your breath folks. the last twenty years of glorious liberation movement kleptocommunism strongly suggest that this will amount to blow all beyond income for a bunch of lawyers.

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    It really is time we distinguished between the 21st century ANC and the Struggle ANC. I know plenty here will scoff and haul out the old tropes that they were always corrupt communists, but we need to draw a line in the sand. The old guard had more ethics in their little toes than this 21st century collection of corrupt comrades and cadres. This mob of charlatans cannot claim a single piece of actual progress – make Ramaphosa and company fight the election based on their own track record, not romantic notions of the Struggle. The Struggle ANC is long gone, with Mavuso Msimang’s cadaverous twitch the final confirmation of the death of ethics and governance in the ruling party.

    • Malcolm McManus says:

      Media propaganda. You were sold that story and you bought it. Don’t worry about playing in the sand and drawing lines in it. Leave that for the kids. This is the real world and the real Africa. The old guard would have backed the new guard by voting for the ANC until the bitter end despite them being charlatans. Don’t fool yourself. Mandela included.

      • D'Esprit Dan says:

        It’s not media propaganda, it’s my experience from having met many of the older guard back in the day. I never agreed with their economic views or much of their politics, but they were so, so much more principled and educated and open to ideas than the current mob. It’s easy to sit back and ascribe everything to ‘propaganda’ – but it’s a lazy and uncritical view based on a pre-determined position. Much as your views on ‘Africa’ are stuck in the past and constrained by a narrow global view. You’d do well to reflect on the fact that the largest ethnically ‘white’ country is today one of the world’s most corrupt and is waging a bloodthirsty, barbaric war on its neighbour!

        • Middle aged Mike says:

          I met a couple of the current leading lights in the period immediately after they came to power when I ran the sales and operations of a supplier company. I was surprised at how much cash they had on hand to pay for work done at their residences. One of them is a current minister and paid me an amount in cash that would have bought a decent second car at the time. My surprise has faded over the years.

          • Renn Moore says:

            Yup. I agree with you, #Middle aged Mike. Sadly, it would be wrong to say bribes and colluding was discovered by the ANC. It was alive and well and flourishing in the SOE’s in the 80’s. Certainly, in the one in which I held a senior position until circa 1993. The “broeders” also enjoyed a few perks and turned many ablind eye!

          • Middle aged Mike says:

            @Renn Moore, I couldn’t agree more. I did most of my period of conscription at defense headquarters in Pta. The thievery networks amongst the permanent force members there went right to the top and much of the ‘trade’ was done pretty much in the open. The ANC certainly didn’t invent thieving and corruption but I’d say that the level at which they conduct their business is such that nothing where they control the resources can survive for long on what doesn’t make it into the trough.

        • Malcolm McManus says:

          Where were the old guard you mention educated. My opinion of Africa, as much as I will always be African first and love Africa, am critical of the way Africa, in particular South Africa is run. We could do much better. Its naive to believe otherwise. Forget about the West and the Eastern Europeans, they have their own problems. We have a band of thugs running this country and the old school Stalwarts have backed them all the way. Mbeki being another example. Critical of the current ANC, yet still openly tells us he will vote for them.

    • Middle aged Mike says:

      I’d suggest you read Inside Quatro by Paul Trewhela for a different perspective on the glorious liberation movement of yore. While there were most certainly honourable and decent members of the ANC there was no shortage of the murderous thieves who we’ve grown to love.

    • Colin Braude says:

      For ANC corruption pre-1994, read Stephen Ellis’ “The ANC in Exile”.

      ANC corruption post 1994 includes Armsdeal, Sarafina II and Travelgate.

      Yes, there was corruption & state capture pre-1994 (Broederbond, CJ Rhodes pre-Union; hell, even Doctor Jan v R was “ambassadored” to the Cape after being caught «trading» by the DEIC) but not on the industrial scale of the ANC; enough was left in state coffers to run the country. And the Nats set about educating “their people” — many living in abject poverty in 1948 — into equality.

  • William Kelly says:

    Some animals are more equal than other animals.
    Never did I think that we’d actually see the day. I suppose on the upside at least the final nail is struck as to what it was we all supposedly were fighting for, this ‘freedom’.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      You mean when some like you had the ‘vote’ but people like me didn’t ? Ah I forget … “supposedly” you joined the end conscription campaign !

  • L T. says:

    The ANC will find a way to absolve and whitewash the entire affair. At best she’ll receive yet another tap on the wrist for being naughty. After all, if the top guy could get away with stuffing dollars in a sofa, there is surely no end to corrupt behaviour from any of them. And I doubt the election will change anything.

  • Rae Earl says:

    This woman has a history of wrong doing but shouts loudly about her ‘humiliation’ at the hands of investigating officers who’ve been given sufficient information to starts these proceedings. Does she expect everything to be swept under the ANC support carpet? That may well happen but it will make their rotten ‘collective’ of cabinet ministers and Ramaphosa stooges look really bad just before election time. Protect her at your own risk ANC!

  • David Walker says:

    Stephen, you say ‘However, to defend a person who has been arrested will have huge implications for the party’s election campaign, especially when it is trying to convince voters that it has changed.’ Don’t be silly Stephen! The broad mass of voters don’t seem to care that the ANC are corrupt. The masses have voted in corrupt leaders time and time again. I am at a loss as to what would make an ANC voter see the light and vote differently. Maybe when the country is in ruins?

  • Libby De Villiers says:

    Of course she will fight. All the cadres do that, because they don’t believe they have done any wrong. They believe it is their right to steal. That is why they are there in the first place – killing each other and stepping over the corpses to get into a comfortable position to line their pockets.

  • Les Thorpe says:

    Clearly, one application of “the law” for ANC cadres (including family and friends), another, entirely different application for the rest of us. Obviously our much vaunted constitution (which lawyers keep telling us is the best in the world) is no different from a toilet roll. It’s just a “smoke and mirrors” act, intended to fool the citizen.

    • District Six says:

      Don’t blame the Constitution for the corruption and failures of those entrusted to enforce it. The Constitution can only be as good as the people entrusted with implementing it. It is one of the best in the world, as well as having one of the most respected legal mechanisms to protect it – the ConCourt. The Constitution is not perfect, of course, but it provides a sufficiently progressive aspiration to the nation. If only the people servicing it were half as ethical. After all, when all else failed, it was the CC that was able to hold the former president-in-thief accountable in some significant way. Which is also why he and his ilk hate the Constitution so much. Think of it as pretty much the only thing standing between you and them.

  • Bob Fraser says:

    Bob – March 26th 2024 at 11:12
    It’s the easiest thing in the world to avoid arrest. Zuma knows. Get a friendly doctor to provide a medical certificate stating that you are terminally ill and need to travel to China for specialist treatment.

  • Bob Fraser says:

    Bob. F – March 26th 2024 at 13:29
    Every ANC member of parliament surely knows how to avoid arrest or, if they don’t they can ask the boss of MK. Of course Zuma will say feing illness, give a friendly doctor a couple of thousand rand and obtain a medical certificate stating that have a terminal illness.

  • Bob Fraser says:

    B. Fraser March 26th 2024 at 13:54
    To avoid arrest do what Zuma and numerous other ANC ministers have done. Pay a doctor a few thousand rand to obtain a medical certificate certifying that you have a terminal illness. Then travel to China for verification by one of their doctors. Be sure the state pays all expenses.

  • Bob Fraser says:

    Bob F March 26th 2024
    Why bother?
    Three times I have commented and three times my comments have not been accepted.

  • Grenville Wilson says:

    Are we holding our breath?? C’mon DM give us some news, or at least some decent analysis!

  • Grenville Wilson says:

    Waiting for Godot?

  • David Pennington says:

    Eee by gum, wonderful entertainment package put together by the ANC, more fun than a barrel of munkeys

  • Avu Azahc says:

    ANC has been associated with corruption as long far back as I can remember. All members of ANC in parliament from president all the way down are directly or indirectly trying their best to evade rule of law. Pathetic organization.

  • Carol Sherwin says:

    I fail to understand how the alleged “corrupt” think they will never be found out? Or do they take corruption as the norm and simply don’t understand what it means to do what they do?

  • FO Molteno says:

    Long before Mandela became President i met a guy who was investigating an ANC drug trafficking ring. He said it was part of their revenue stream, like rhino horn is today.
    Given what we have seen since, he was likely not far off.

  • Andre Swart says:

    Did she jump ship?

    … from the sinking ANC ship to the MK canoe?

    Now they want to ‘fry’ her for betraying her comrades?

  • mo ma says:

    people like her do not go to jail or prison in this country. she is immune to that.
    she will instead go to another organisation and do it all over again. there are no consequences in RSA for a person of her status. There arent even any laws for that what she is accused of. she is above the law courts of RSA and nobody or organisation can do anything to change her lifestyle. instead she will tell U what to do…

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