Mapisa-Nqakula denies bribery allegations, will co-operate with “any formal investigation”

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Former defence and military veterans minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula “categorically denied” bribery allegations levelled against her with regard to contracts worth in excess of R100 million for transporting military equipment to and from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Sudan.

The current National Assembly (NA) Speaker, a position she was elected to by the governing party majority in Parliament in August 2021, rebutted allegations in a Sunday Times report by way of a statement. It reads, among others, “she expressed deep concern about the allegations including a purported affidavit” by a former Department of Defence (DoD) service provider. The statement has it Mapisa-Nqakula “only learned” about the allegations through the national Sunday newspaper.

Bribes of up to R2.3 million in cash were apparently paid to Mapisa-Nqakula by Nombasa Ndhlovu of Umkhombe Marine in the wake of “frustration” over a R104 million contract to move SA National Defence Force (SANDF) equipment from Sudan back to South Africa. The equipment was used by South African military personnel deployed in Sudan’s Darfur region as part of a joint African Union (AU)/ United Nations (UN) mission as Operation Cordite. Transport was to be overland either to Dar-es-Salaam or Mombasa and then by sea to South Africa.

This contract was apparently cancelled when South Africa’s commitment to UNAMID ended in March 2016. Umkhombe Marine was subsequently awarded a similar contract to bring military equipment back to South Africa from DRC, reportedly valued at R79 million.

Ndhlovu was arrested in October 2020 in connection with the Sudan contract and others and released on bail of R80 000. Her husband, Noel, a two-star general at that time posted to the SANDF Joint Operations Division is alleged to have “rubber stamped” the Umkhombe Marine contracts. He was placed on special leave when his wife was arrested.

Mapisa-Nqakula’s statement reads: “The Speaker reaffirms her commitment to fully co-operate with any formal investigation into these allegations. She remains steadfast in her conviction of innocence and her dedication to continue serving the public with honour and integrity”.

She is dismissive of the report and its associated “purported investigation” shared with the media saying “investigations of this nature ought to be conducted with the utmost diligence and respect for due process”.

“Throughout her public service career, the Speaker has upheld the highest standards of integrity and ethical conduct and has fiercely advocated against corruption, which she continued (sic) to regard as a direct threat to the principles of democracy and good governance.”

Her time in government has seen Mapisa-Nqakula serve as deputy minister in the Correctional Services and Home Affairs portfolios, as well as Correctional Services Minister before being taking on the Defence and Military Veterans portfolio until the Speaker appointment.

The statement has her committing to full co-operation with “any formal investigation” into the bribery allegations.