South Africa’s ex-parliament speaker charged in graft probe

South Africa’s former parliament speaker was charged with corruption and money laundering Thursday, in the latest scandal to hit the governing African National Congress (ANC) party ahead of elections in May.

Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who resigned her speaker post Wednesday, appeared before a court in Pretoria after she handed herself in to police and was formally detained.

“Charges against Ms Mapisa-Nqakula are 12 counts of corruption… and one of money laundering,” Bheki Manyathi of the National Prosecuting Authority told the court.

Wearing a yellow and blue dress and matching head-cover as she sat in the dock, the ANC veteran elected to remain silent as her lawyer requested she be let out on bail.

“I’m not at flight risk,” she said in a submission read by her lawyer Graham Kerr-Phillips. “I will receive a state pension which I cannot afford to lose,” she added, also describing the case against her as weak.

Coming just under two months before national elections, the case has added to the woes of the ANC, which is struggling in opinion polls amid a weak economy and accusations of official graft and mismanagement.

Mapisa-Nqakula is the latest in a string of senior ANC politicians, including the president and vice president, to become embroiled in corruption scandals.

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

She denies the allegations.

– Resignation letter –

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.

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 move followed a March raid carried out by members of a top investigative team at Mapisa-Nqakula’s residence, a high-end property in an eastern suburb of Johannesburg.

Local media reports said she had allegedly solicited 2.3 million rand ($121,000) in bribes from a former military contractor.

Parliament said she would be replaced by her deputy, Lechesa Tsenoli.

But on Thursday, the leading opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, called for a new speaker to be urgently elected.

Mapisa-Nqakula served as defence minister between 2014 and 2021 before being appointed speaker in a move that drew much criticism from the opposition.

At the time, she had come under fire for perceived incompetence in responding to a spate of deadly unrest that saw more than 300 people killed.

South Africans head to the polls in national and provincial elections on May 29.

The ANC is expected to see its share of the vote drop below 50 percent for the first time since the advent of democracy in 1994, potentially forcing it to form a coalition with rival parties to remain in power.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *