Ex-Speaker dug her own grave, says analyst

Former Speaker of Parliament Nosiviwe Mapisa Nqakula appeared at the Pretoria Magistrate's Court. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

Former Speaker of Parliament Nosiviwe Mapisa Nqakula appeared at the Pretoria Magistrate's Court. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

Published Apr 5, 2024


Durban — Former National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula may have dug her own political grave by appointing a judicial panel to probe President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala saga instead of using the Parliament Ethics Committee, which was going to kill the report. This was the view of a Zululand University-based political analyst Professor Sipho Seepe.

Mapisa-Nqakula is facing 12 charges of corruption and one of money laundering following investigations into allegations she solicited about R4.5 million, of which R2.1m was received in cash during her time as defence minister from 2014 to 2021. She is out on R50 000 bail.

Seepe said Mapisa-Nqakula had blundered by supporting the call for the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to look into the SAA-Takatso deal.

“By doing so, she ruffled feathers of the untouchables,” Seepe said.

With less than two months to gracefully retire from active politics and as National Assembly Speaker, Mapisa-Nqakula’s political career appeared to have ended abruptly.

The former Speaker had indicated that she was not returning to Parliament. She was also not on the ANC’s national list of members who were submitted to the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC).

Mapisa-Nqakula has been under pressure from all political corners after news broke last month that she had solicited bribes from a contractor while she was a minister of defence.

Although she denied the allegations, pressure grew after police raided her home and took away documents for investigation. Political parties mounted pressure, calling for her resignation. The pressure from politicians had forced her to take special leave and then to resign.

Despite her top-tier appointments to various key government and Cabinet positions since 1994, Mapisa-Nqakula’s political career has been marred by allegations of corruption and abuse of power.

In 2016, it emerged that she allegedly smuggled a Burundian national into South Africa on an SA Air Force jet. Independent Media reported that the woman’s father said his daughter had been set to secretly marry Mapisa-Nqakula’s late son, Chumani Nqakula.

Chumani was stabbed to death in Johannesburg, allegedly by his friend, Carlos Higuera, in 2015.

It was reported that Mapisa-Nqakula had allegedly organised a false passport for the 22-year-old Burundian woman to travel to South Africa with her in 2014.

In 2019, the former chief operations officer of Bosasa, Angelo Agrizzi, told the State Capture Commission headed by then Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that senior ANC leaders such as Mapisa-Nqakula were among the shareholders of Dyambu Holdings, which later became Bosasa.

At the time, the commission also heard that Bosasa boss, the late Gavin Watson, showered the Post Office’s former head of security and Mapisa-Nqakula’s brother, Siviwe Mapisa with expensive gifts, including luxury Cartier and Monte Blanc pens, as well as cufflinks and fake watches.

Documents revealed that Mapisa-Nqakula had a trust that was registered in 2007, of which Watson’s brother, Valence Watson, was a trustee along with Armscor chief executive, Kevin Wakeford.

In 2020, Mapisa-Nqakula made headlines for misusing state resources by allowing an ANC delegation to use an air force jet to travel to Zimbabwe to meet Zanu-PF officials.

In 2021, a whistle-blower said Mapisa-Nqakula, during her time as defence minister, had allegedly received a bribe from a Department of Defence contractor. A joint standing committee on defence abandoned an investigation into allegations of corruption against her after the whistle-blower failed to present more evidence.

In 2021, the DA urged President Ramaphosa to institute an urgent Special Investigating Unit (SIU) investigation into allegations that then Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Mapisa-Nqakula wasted millions of taxpayers’ money on chartered flights and luxury accommodation.

It also emerged that she allegedly spent:

  • R4 million on a chartered flight from Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria to Cairo in Egypt in April 2019.
  • R400 000 on a five-day stay in the Marriott Essex House, a luxury hotel overlooking Central Park in New York, in September 2019.
  • R350 000 in November 2019 for a six-day stay at the Hotel Du Collectionneur Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, for her and three departmental attachés and an Avis transport bill of nearly R150 000.
  • R2.5 million to charter an aircraft to Angola, Guinea, Ghana, and Togo, which bizarrely included a flight from Lanseria International Airport to Cape Town International Airport and one from Waterkloof Air Force Base to Lanseria International Airport, which was within driving distance.

Political analyst Dr Ongama Mtimka, speaking on national television on Thursday, said Mapisa-Nqakula’s decision to resign broke an impasse.

“Had it not happened the ANC had the capability to protect her up until she exits, something that they would not want to do during an election period,” he said.

“The step-aside rule was going to be triggered as soon as she was charged. It’s interesting that things went so fast in the last two weeks that she has been able to offer to the party her resignation – that avoid a protracted damaging battle between the ANC and opposition parties.”.

Prof Dirk Kotzé from Unisa and Prof Bheki Mngomezulu from Nelson Mandela University said Mapisa-Nqakula was in a tight corner and had resigned to protect the integrity of Parliament and the ANC.

According to political analysts, the resignation may have preserved the benefits that she will continue to enjoy as the former head of the legislature.

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