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ACCOUNTABILITY ANALYSIS

Speaker’s corruption saga another nail in coffin of public trust in government

Speaker’s corruption saga another nail in coffin of public trust in government
Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. (Photo: Deaan Vivier / Gallo Images / Rapport)

Whether or not Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, the Speaker on special leave, is arrested and prosecuted over multimillion-rand corruption, damage to ethical governance and integrity has been done — again.

The muted public response when the former defence minister and current National Assembly Speaker, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, emerged at the centre of a graft investigation signals public weariness of yet another politician under a cloud. 

That by going on special leave, Mapisa-Nqakula, the head of the legislative sphere of state, did more than other corruption/State Capture-connected ANC public representatives doesn’t seem to have made a difference.

Mapisa-Nqakula is not on the governing ANC’s 2024 election candidates lists and will retire from public life unless an ambassadorship beckons. The clock is running out on possible blowback for the ANC, regardless of DA Chief Whip Siviwe Gwarube’s motion of no confidence and ethics complaint in relation to the corruption claims.

With the National Assembly having risen on 28 March for the elections, MPs are now in a constituency period. The House would have to be recalled for a no-confidence motion debate. Parliament remains competent until the eve of the 29 May election and if the no-confidence motion isn’t held by then, it lapses. But it may well happen.

Already the ANC has circled the wagons.

The ANC in Parliament described it as “gossip” when the Investigating Directorate (ID) raided Mapisa-Nqakula’s Johannesburg home on 19 March and shielded President Cyril Ramaphosa from having to answer a DA question whether he’d support her resignation.

The ANC continued to be indulgent when it emerged in court papers that the ID was ready to charge Mapisa-Nqakula with 12 counts of corruption totalling R4.55-million. This was after she applied for an interdict in the Gauteng Division of the High Court in Pretoria.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ANC’s continued support of Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula signals it is not serious about stopping corruption

“Let’s give those processes an opportunity so we can know exactly what has happened. There are still investigations; she is not charged and it remains allegations. It would be premature to ask the Speaker to relieve herself of her duties,” Deputy President Paul Mashatile said during his Thursday Q&A in the House.

ANC Chief Whip Pemmy Majodina took the same line earlier in the week. “There is no basis to support that motion of no confidence against the Speaker at this moment. Let us allow NPA [National Prosecuting Authority] processes to unfold,” Majodina said.

And that’s how it has been for years.

ANC above all

The ANC sharpened its kicking-for-touch tool kit in the Nkandla saga — and how accountability, ethics and integrity are browbeaten by processes that must unfold: an investigation, charges, a trial and then a series of appeals.

In March 2016, the Constitutional Court upheld the Public Protector’s decision that then president Jacob Zuma had to repay a percentage of the costs of non-security upgrades at his rural homestead, including a swimming pool, cattle kraal, chicken run and visitors’ centre.

Crucially, South Africa’s highest court also ruled that Parliament’s actions were “inconsistent with the Constitution” when it replaced the Public Protector’s decision with its own, absolving Zuma from any repayments. ANC numbers in the House meant the decision was carried despite opposition objections.

The Nkandla saga coincided with the ANC’s accelerated decline in electoral fortunes. In the August 2016 municipal poll, the ANC lost South Africa’s economic heartland of Johannesburg, as well as Ekurhuleni and the Eastern Cape manufacturing and industrial hub of Gqeberha. The decline continued in the 2019 national and provincial elections when the ANC’s support nationally dropped to 57.5% from 62.15% in 2014. The 2024 elections will be heavily contested, with pundits predicting the ANC’s share of the vote could drop below 50%.

Interminable Byzantine manoeuvrings have captured the ANC, effectively putting its concerns and internal machinations above all. Given that it is South Africa’s governing party nationally and in eight of the nine provinces, this prevaricating and technicist ticking-boxes attitude has also infected governance. Ditto, shielding those in public office who have been named or implicated in corruption or State Capture.

Ramaphosa has not put his foot down. Not in the ANC. Not in government where he instead established a parallel administration of presidential task teams, working groups and concentrated power in his Presidency — all to avoid sacking inefficient nonperforming ministers who cock a snook by malicious compliance.

When Ramaphosa promoted Mapisa-Nqakula from defence minister to the head of the legislative sphere of state in his August 2021 Cabinet reshuffle, he was aware of the corruption claims against her that dated back to 2019. He knew of her dodgy dealings in office — some 10 months earlier, in September 2o2o he fined Mapisa-Nqakula three months’ salary for giving senior ANC members a lift on an air force jet to Harare, Zimbabwe.

It wasn’t always like this.

In December 2006, the ANC sacked its chief whip, Mbulelo Goniwe, for sexual harassment of an admin assistant. While the ANC NEC reinstated him as an ANC member for fresh disciplinary proceedings that in 2007 also delivered a guilty verdict, Goniwe never returned as chief whip or MP.

On 14 June 2005, then president Thabo Mbeki called a joint sitting of Parliament to explain why he had dismissed his deputy, Zuma, over Arms Deal corruption claims following the corruption conviction of businessman Schabir Shaik.

“I trust that what we have done today, and will do in future, together, will continue to strengthen our democracy, reinforce the accountability of those who hold public office, and deepen the confidence of the masses of our people in their elected representatives and our organs of state.”

It was not to be.

In July 2005, the ANC National General Council (NGC) endorsed Zuma as party deputy president and at the 2007 Polokwane ANC national conference elected him president. Ultimately, political machinations led to Mbeki’s recall by the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) in September 2008.

‘Step aside’

Maladministration, corruption, tender fraud, nepotism and patronage have infected South Africa — and public opinion regularly puts corruption alongside crime and joblessness as top national priorities. At the same time, public trust in the institutions of governance has eroded. Low public trust levels in government, Parliament and political parties — below the 30 percentage points mark — are reflected by Human Science Research Council and Afrobarometer surveys.

While the governing party’s Integrity Commission, established at its 2012 Mangaung national conference, was held up as the tool to ensure above-board conduct, right from the start insiders raised a red flag. Because it was not established as a constitutional structure of the ANC, the Integrity Commission has struggled to get its recommendations implemented.

In 2015, the NGC decided, “ANC leaders and members who are alleged to be involved in corrupt activities, should, where necessary step aside until their names are cleared.”

Stepping aside when named became stepping aside when charged and pushback invoked the principle of innocent until proven guilty to stay put. At the 2017 policy conference, the ANC acknowledged it was associated with corruption in the public mind; the Guptas’ access to public money for their private benefit and that of their business associates and friends stayed in the headlines.

“Where we must own up, individual comrades should do so by providing a reputable explanation, as a few have done. Blatant denial lacks credibility in the eyes of society,” said the diagnostics report submitted to the 2017 ANC policy conference by its then national chairperson Gwede Mantashe.

Six months later, the ANC’s December 2017 Nasrec national conference, which elected Ramaphosa as party president, reaffirmed the 2015 NGC decision and resolved, “We publicly disassociate ourselves from anyone, whether business donor, supporter or member, accused of corruption or reported to be involved in corruption.” 

But in 2024 that’s still not the case.

Integrity Commission overruled

The Integrity Commission continues to be overruled — most recently over its recommendation that those named in connection with corruption and State Capture should not be 2024 election candidates, a position also endorsed by the ANC Veterans League. However, the NEC decided to allow even those with adverse Integrity Commission findings to contest if appeals are in progress. Once the appeals are finalised, their positions will be reviewed.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Culture of corruption runs deep within the ANC, and shielding its members from accountability is the party’s choice

ANC 2024 election candidates lists without Mantashe would have been a shocker. That’s not only because he’s the national chairperson of the party, but also for his control over factional power games — and his role in ensuring Ramaphosa did not resign in December 2022 at the height of the Phala Phala dollar-stuffed sofa saga. Subsequently, ANC numbers in the House ensured an independent recommendation for the President’s impeachment was nixed.

Mantashe is awaiting the outcome of his court review of the Zondo Commission’s recommendation that he be investigated for corruption over home security upgrades sponsored by Bosasa, a supplier to Correctional Services.

With a no-confidence motion and ethics complaint pending in Parliament, it’s now emerged that Mapisa-Nqakula has been asked to appear before the Integrity Commission.

Yet, like any public representative, or “deployee” in ANC-speak, Mapisa-Nqakula is also bound by the state’s codes of ethics and financial interest disclosure regimen. In the executive, the ethics code requires ministers and their deputies “to act in good faith and in the best interest of good governance; and act in all respects in a manner that is consistent with the integrity of their office or the government”. 

Parliament’s code requires legislators’ conduct must “create public trust and confidence in public representatives and to protect the integrity of Parliament”.

The required standards of ethics and integrity in governance are clear. 

If ethics and integrity mattered in the ANC’s view on governance, Mapisa-Nqakula, as head of the legislative sphere of state, would have resigned, regardless of an arrest and trial that may well acquit her. That she, like so many others, has not done so signals how in the ANC ethics and integrity are trumped by party political dynamics and demands. And that does little for public trust in South Africa’s constitutional democracy. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Graeme de Villiers says:

    The political shambles continues unabated

  • Denise Smit says:

    ANC getting dirtier day by day, the dirtiest at the top. Ramaphoza, Mashatile, the Speaker, Mantashe. To protect each other’s wickets

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      corruption is not some kind of petty crime but rather a tool of power in democracies and dictatorships

      • TEC Custom says:

        Absolutely….There is probably no instance of government anywhere that is not tainted by this !!!

      • D'Esprit Dan says:

        There is corruption in most governments whatever form they take – the difference between corruption in say, the UK (rife) and SA (rife) is that kids don’t drown in pit latrines in the UK because of corruption in government. It’s that stark: in South Africa, corruption kills. Whether its the useless public health sector, schools without proper facilities, kids being killed by corruption because there is no bridge to cross simply to get to school, Fort Hare staff being gunned down by corrupt tenderpreneurs, ditto mining personnel in Richards Bay, or Babita Deokoran – the list is endless, but the one constant is that corruption in South Africa kills.

  • Roy Haines says:

    Thanks Marianne for an excellent article.

  • David Pennington says:

    There is not one person in SA that trusts the government

  • Grumpy Old Man says:

    One of the things that is most telling is our Presidents non communication. I can’t remember when he last made himself available to take questions from the Press. One would think, given his thuma mina call to action that an important cornerstone of such a campaign would have been some kind of active communication strategy in an effort to promote transparency & open engagement.
    What we have experienced is completely the opposite. That is a deliberate strategy of non engagement. This suggests to me (& mine is a generous interpretation) that the internal renewal objective he set himself was far more difficult than he ever imagined and that he has failed at it (relative to his own expectations).
    The predicament that our cities, municipalities and country finds itself are at a point where they are becoming visibly worse by each passing month – with less money to fix and still with the very same people at the helm.
    When will it new dawn on our President that it’s both selfish and absurdto ask people to stomach their suffering until the ANC sorts itself out. As the Executive Head of the Country he should step down. He has failed

  • Mark Wade says:

    It’s interesting to note that while the ANC is mired in serious scandals, their electorate continue to blindly vote for them, brushing off the realities that they’re corrupt, incompetent and racist, and are bringing our country to its knees; electricity and water supply failures, public service collapses, bankrupt SOEs, financial mismanagement, state capture, cadre deployment, soaring unemployment, frightening crime statistics … an endless list of failures.

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      Mark these are one of those times that I feel like swearing really hard, this is a speaker with perks most people see in a dream but she is embroiled in this, I would say innocent until proven guilty but her reaction speaks volumes.

  • Just Me says:

    Its not just a ‘nail in coffin of public trust in government’ but a disappearance on trust in the ANC.

  • Malcolm McManus says:

    “Another nail in the coffin of government”. Its a massive coffin which has been getting nails in it for over 30 years. Evidently we are in short supply of enough nails to seal this coffin for once and for all. What we need is lots more nails and very quickly.

  • Andre Swart says:

    Masters of deception!

    By submitting criminal acts of ANC cadres to an investigation by ‘committees’, they deceive the public into believing that ‘the law’ is taking it’s course. But in reality the ‘commissions’ are abused to ‘ bypass’ real law enforcement.

    Apart from ‘obstructing’ law enforcement through the appointment of committees, the ANC have wasted billions in taxpayer money for the purpose of deception of the public.

    Question:

    Why didn’t the ANC allow regular law enforcement to take it’s course in ‘state capture’?

    For 10% of the cost of the Zondo commission the perpetrators could have been in jail by now, and their ill begotten assets could have been seized and returned to the state, if regular law enforcement had been allowed to do their job.

    The ‘fake’ law enforcement, (deception) can be seen as betrayal of the constitution and should be prosecuted!

    The ANC who abused their positions of authority to appoint ‘investigative committees’, are responsible for the current failed state because they undermined regular law enforcement. They deliberately protected criminals and deceived the nation.

    And Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has been a leading conspirator against the constitution and the public!

    ‘Hang her from the lamp posts!’

  • Patricia Sidley says:

    It is really difficult to imagine voting for the ANC again. But some of what’s on offer does not seem very tempting either. There is one independent i would like to support and that is Zackie Achmat. But the IEC has not exactly made it well understood how this will work . I would have thought that they needed to do this. In the absence of clarity I may have to do the unthinkable and spoil my ballot

    • Middle aged Mike says:

      No, rather just vote for the ANC again and finish the job.

    • Neil Bromehead says:

      Even if you don’t like the DA, vote for them out of hatred for the ANC. Our situation is such that you don’t get to vote for someone you like, but you HAVE to vote for someone who can actually provide opposition and has some legacy of service delivery.

    • Rob vZ says:

      Vote for refuse collection, clean running water and electricity. Choose which party does that. Do not vote for a personality with no track record.

  • virginia crawford says:

    “unless an ambassadorship” beckons: I had to laugh. Our ambassadors cost a lot but what do they actually do? The embassy in Cairo disconnected all its phone lines – such a nuisance to abswer calls. And to send a crook like this to represent SA will send a clear message: CorruptionR Us.

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