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South Africa's National Assembly Speaker on Special Leave Amid Corruption Investigation

Published March 22, 2024
2 months ago

The National Assembly Speaker of South Africa, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, has stepped aside, taking "special leave" amid a serious corruption investigation that has led to a raid on her home. This move comes as the ruling African National Congress (ANC) is facing plummeting poll numbers ahead of national elections slated for May 29.

The raid conducted on Mapisa-Nqakula's home was part of a larger graft probe. The former defence minister, who held the position from 2014 to 2021, stands accused of receiving bribes amounting to 2.3 million rand (approximately USD 121,000) from a military contractor. Despite the weighty allegations, Ms. Mapisa-Nqakula has pledged her full cooperation with the investigators and rigorously denies any misconduct.

Mapisa-Nqakula's decision to take leave reflects the gravity of the accusations leveled against her. In a statement, she emphasized her intention to safeguard the reputation and sanctity of the Parliament: "Given the seriousness of the allegations and the attendant extensive media speculation, I have decided to take special leave... effective immediately," she declared.

This development lands another blow to the ANC, which critics have persistently accused of graft and mismanagement. The party's internal "step aside" policy requires members facing corruption charges to relinquish their official roles, although it relies on the voluntary compliance of its members. The ANC has conveyed its commitment to enforcing this rule based on the unfolding facts of each case.

The Democratic Alliance (DA), South Africa's primary opposition party, has demanded her resignation in light of the corruption charges. The ANC is currently navigating turbulent political waters, with expectations that the historical liberation movement might secure less than 50% of the national vote for the first time since the country embraced democracy in 1994. A potential dip below the majority could compel the ANC to consider forming a coalition to maintain its governance.

The timing of Mapisa-Nqakula's leave and the events leading up to it have amplified the political drama surrounding the upcoming elections. These incidents underscore the broader challenge of corruption that continues to cast a shadow over South Africa's political landscape. As the ANC grapples with its declining support, the unfolding of this high-profile case will be closely scrutinized by the electorate and could significantly impact the political dynamics as the country heads to the polls.

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