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Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

It is hard to work out what, if anything, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, the disgraced speaker of the National Assembly, hopes to achieve by stalling her arrest and departure from parliament. Both events are imminent and inevitable.

For more than a month now, Mapisa-Nqakula, a senior ANC leader, has led the public to believe she was unaware of investigations by the Investigating Directorate (ID) into serious allegations of corruption in relation to dealings with a military contractor during her underwhelming stint as defence minister.

According to the contractor’s affidavits, Mapisa-Nqakula solicited and received bribes of more than R4m when she was defence minister. The contractor, who was arrested in 2021, has now cut a deal with the ID, a division of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), to turn state witness.

The payments — in cash and electronic transfers — appear small considering her multimillion-rand salary as head of the legislature. She is entitled to tens of millions in pension as an MP and minister since 1994.

Still, the allegations are serious.

For a start, our laws are very clear. Politicians such as ministers and councillors should never have any dealings with suppliers and procurement processes. What was Mapisa-Nqakula doing with a supplier?

The public would be correct to ask for a wider probe including her tenure in various ministries before the defence portfolio, which she led poorly. Under her leadership, our armed forces were reduced to a joke. She allowed budget cuts for personnel and weapons that have turned our soldiers into sitting ducks in conflict zones.

Once news of her impending arrest, after a raid at her private residence, emerged last week, she turned to law courts, applying for an interdict to stop her arrest. The grounds for this action — public humiliation — are laughable.

She lost her dignity when she allegedly sought and received bribes. Also, the raid was lawful and the only available means of collecting and protecting evidence of the alleged crimes.

She has now “taken special leave” from her duties as speaker. A month ago, special leave would have been appropriate. Today, it is insufficient.

The opposition is correct to ask for her head. In weeks, parliament will rise to allow its members to campaign for the May 29 general elections. Until then, Mapisa-Nqakula will continue to earn her lavish salary and allowances and, worse, continue to be associated with the institution that is supposed to hold the executive and heads of chapter 9 bodies to account. That is untenable.

Her party, which claims to be serious about fighting corruption, has a rare opportunity to demonstrate its seriousness. Its national working committee met to discuss, among others, Mapisa-Nqakula’s issue.

There is still a chance that she could assist the party by resigning. In the likely event that she doesn’t, she should face a vote of no confidence in parliament.

Sadly, the ANC’s track record in fighting corruption within its ranks is uninspiring. Several MPs and MPLs are still earning their salaries while facing criminal charges.

However, charging a sitting speaker, a head of another arm of the state, would be unseemly. It should be avoided.

When it became obvious that Jacob Zuma, then deputy president, would be charged, Thabo Mbeki sacked him as his deputy. The ANC should immediately recall Mapisa-Nqakula.

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