Graft Probe: Ex-South African Parliament Speaker Nabbed

The ex-speaker of the South African parliament found herself in cuffs on Thursday, ensnared in a corruption probe, adding to the mounting woes of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) just weeks before the upcoming May elections.

Following her resignation from the speaker position on Wednesday, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula surrendered to authorities near Pretoria and was subsequently formally detained, according to prosecutors.

The spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority, Henry Mamothame, informed AFP that the ANC elder was slated to make a court appearance to formally answer to charges of corruption and money laundering.

“She’s appearing at the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court,” Mamothame said.

In the run-up to national elections, the timing of this case, occurring less than two months prior, presents additional challenges for the ANC. The party is already grappling with diminishing support in opinion polls, compounded by economic struggles and ongoing accusations of corruption and mismanagement.

Joining a roster of ANC heavyweights under scrutiny, Mapisa-Nqakula’s involvement in a corruption scandal mirrors that of other senior party members, including the president and vice president.

The 67-year-old is accused of soliciting hefty amounts in bribes from a former military contractor during her previous tenure as defence minister.

On Wednesday, Mapisa-Nqakula resigned as speaker and as a lawmaker with immediate effect, a day after losing a court bid to prevent her possible arrest.

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In a resignation letter, she maintained her innocence but said she had decided to step down to uphold the integrity of parliament and focus on the investigation against her.

“Given the seriousness of the much-publicised allegations against me, I cannot continue in this role,” she wrote.

The decision came in the wake of a March operation conducted by a prominent investigative unit at Mapisa-Nqakula’s upscale residence situated in an eastern district of Johannesburg.

Reports from local media outlets claim she allegedly requested 2.3 million rand (about $121,000) in bribes from a former military contractor.

Parliament announced that her deputy, Lechesa Tsenoli, would assume her position.

On Thursday, the Democratic Alliance, the major opposition entity, pushed for the expedited election of a new speaker.

Mapisa-Nqakula held the position of defense minister from 2014 to 2021 prior to assuming the role of speaker, a decision that garnered significant opposition backlash.

During that period, she faced intense scrutiny for what was perceived as incompetence in handling a series of violent upheavals that resulted in the deaths of over 300 individuals.

South Africans will cast their votes in national and provincial elections scheduled for May 29.

Projections suggest that the ANC’s portion of the vote will dip below 50 percent, marking the first instance since the dawn of democracy in 1994, potentially compelling it to forge alliances with rival factions to retain governance.

Africa Today News, New York

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