Mapisa-Nqakula in opposition party crosshairs following bribery allegations

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The Democratic Alliance (DA) is pushing for former defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to be investigated by Parliament’s ethics committee after she was accused of soliciting bribes from a defence contractor.

On 6 March the DA announced it had officially lodged a complaint with the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests.

DA Chief Whip Siviwe Gwarube said as Speaker of the National Assembly, Mapisa-Nqakula is entrusted with leading the legislative arm of the state. “The fact that she faces these allegations threatens the credibility of Parliament and its ability to effectively hold the executive to account.

“We cannot allow the trust deficit between South Africans and this institution to widen because of those who do not conduct themselves in accordance to the Code of Conduct.”

Gwarube said the DA called on the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests to conduct a swift, impartial, and comprehensive investigation into the allegations.

Mapisa-Nqakula has “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.

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. 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.

Tender corruption allegations were made in 2021 but Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence did not proceed with investigations after a whistleblower did not furnish it with an affidavit.

The Cape Times reported the latest allegations come at a time when the ethics committee is investigating whether Mapisa-Nqakula breached her oath of office and misled Parliament by adjusting the institution’s Secretary Xolile George’s salary to R4.4 million.

In a statement, Mapisa-Nqakula said she would commit to fully co-operate with any formal investigation into the bribery allegations.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) said Mapisa-Nqakula should be immediately removed from office pending the outcome of these investigations. “The EFF calls for Mampisa-Nqakula’s removal as Speaker while she is under investigation and that she is prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” the party said, adding that, “Such blatant conduct [against] the rule of law cannot be tolerated.”

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) noted the “worrying allegations of corruption against the former Minister for Defence and the current Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula,” and supported the African National Congress’s resolution that persons who have been charged by the relevant law enforcement organs, should step aside from their positions of leadership.

United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa also called for Mapisa-Nqakula to be investigated over the allegations of bribery.