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South African Speakers Embroiled in Scandals: Mapisa-Nqakula Faces Allegations

Published March 24, 2024
2 months ago

South Africa's political arena is witnessing a recurring theme of allegations and scandals involving high-ranking parliamentary officials. Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, the current Speaker of the National Assembly, has found herself in the prosecutorial spotlight over accusations of accepting multi-million-rand bribes during her tenure as the Defence Minister. The scandal echoes previous controversies involving her predecessors, signaling a pattern of ethical challenges in the country's political leadership.

The accusations against Mapisa-Nqakula surfaced following an Independent Media report in 2021, indicting her in a bribery scandal involving a defence department contractor and payments amounting to R2.3 million. The joint standing committee on defence initiated an inquiry, prompted by allegations tabled by Bantu Holomisa, leader of the United Democratic Movement (UDM). However, the investigation came to a halt due to a lack of tangible evidence and absence of cooperation from the whistleblower and the contractor.

The scandal resurged as the National Prosecuting Authority's Investigating Directorate conducted a raid on Mapisa-Nqakula's residence in Johannesburg, intensifying the legal scrutiny. In response, the speaker has sought judicial intervention to halt any arrests and has taken special leave from her parliamentary responsibilities. The opposition is capitalizing on this turmoil, pushing for a motion of no confidence to oust the beleaguered speaker.

Thandi Modise, a former speaker and Mapisa-Nqakula's successor as Defence Minister, also faced legal battles. She weathered animal cruelty charges after scores of her farm animals were discovered dead in the North West province. Although Modise was acquitted, the decision is under appeal by animal rights organizations, highlighting the ongoing accountability challenges for public officials.

Baleka Mbete, another former speaker with two stints in the role, encountered bribery allegations linked to her increased share allocation in a mining company. While Mbete consistently denied receiving any cash and was ultimately cleared by both Parliament's ethics committee and a public protector investigation, the ordeal has cast a long shadow over her political legacy.

These continual scandals illustrate the strenuous tug-of-war between accountability and political survival in South African politics. They emphasize the need for robust integrity systems and underscore the persistent quest for transparency among the ruling elite. With Mapisa-Nqakula signalling her retirement post-elections, the question remains whether her successors will manage to navigate the political landscape without succumbing to ethical quandaries.

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