Speaker to face the music

Speaker of Parliament Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. Picture: File

Speaker of Parliament Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. Picture: File

Published Apr 3, 2024


While the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is remaining mum over the fate of Speaker of Parliament Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, it is expected that she will hand herself over to the police to be processed, before appearing before court on corruption and money laundering charges.

The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, on Tuesday struck her urgent application to halt her arrest, from the roll. This was mainly as the court found that her urgent application was not urgent.

Although the NPA urged her two weeks ago to hand herself over to the police so that her case could be processed, this has not yet been done.

Judge Sulet Potterill’s judgment, however, left the way open for her to be arrested and brought before court.

NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga, shortly after the judgment, refused to comment on the way forward. He, however, did say that the judgment paved the way for an arrest.

“Obviously the wheels of justice will now be in motion…” Mhaga said.

While no details have been forthcoming about when and whether she will be arrested or handing herself over to the police, Mhaga and members of her legal team were seen talking to each other in court, seconds after the judgment was delivered.

It could be that Mapisa-Nqakula will hand herself to the Lyttelton Police Station in Pretoria on Wednesday, as this was the plan all along from her legal team’s side.

Her attorney, Stephen May, said in court papers that he told the NPA that the first date he is available is April 3 and that he could then accompany her to the police station.

Her advocate, Reg Willis SC, also during arguments told Potterill that Mapisa-Nqakula was willing to hand herself over to the Lyttelton Police Station on April 3, to be processed and taken to court.

The EFF, meanwhile, demanded her immediate arrest following what it called her failed attempt to evade justice.

It said in a statement that the judgment is a victory for accountability and the rule of law.

“Mapisa-Nqakula’s audacious manoeuvre to avoid facing the consequences of her alleged corrupt actions is an affront to the principles of justice and integrity,” the party said.

It added that she failed to have regard for the gravity of the charges against her. It is alleged that while she was the minister of defence, that she had received about R4.5m in bribes.

The party demanded that the law enforcement agencies swiftly proceed with her arrest and once again called for her to step down as the Speaker.

The United Democratic Movement also called for Mapisa-Nqakula to swiftly present herself to the police. The party’s president, Bantu Holomisa, said in a statement that they have as far back as in March 2021 alerted the joint standing committee on defence about the allegations that she had received several payments from at least one company that had contracts with the SANDF when she served as minister.

Judge Potterill, meanwhile, found that it was merely speculation on her part that her arrest would be unlawful.

Judge Potterill said that the NPA was in fact lenient towards her. She was told to present herself at a police station so that she could be processed and taken to court.

To date, she has not done so.

The judge also pointed out that the NPA gave the assurance that it would not oppose bail. Thus, the judge said, there can be no urgency in a case where someone’s liberty is not at stake.

It was argued on behalf of Mapisa-Nqakula that the matter was urgent as her “unlawful arrest is imminent and set to take her and her legal representative by surprise”.

It was further argued that an arrest will harm her dignity as an ordinary citizen “merely by virtue of her office as Speaker”.

She, meanwhile, was not able to prove urgency in this matter, as the judge pointed out that Mapisa-Nqakula knew since March 8 that an arrest was imminent.

But for weeks since that date no arrest has been carried out and the NPA engaged with her and her team for her to hand herself over at a police station.

Judge Potterill said if the court did issue an interdict against the arrest of Mapisa-Nqakula, it would open the floodgates to other suspects to turn to court in a bid to avoid their arrests and to argue that the state case against them was weak.

“The whole criminal justice system will then fold and be controlled by suspects,” she said.

Regarding the request by Mapisa-Nqakula’s legal team for her to take a “judicial peek” into the case docket against the Speaker if she was unsure about the case against her, the judge remarked that she is “not unsure”, thus she did not look at the docket.

Attorney John Njau of Sekgala and Njau, meanwhile, said the Speaker jumped the proverbial gun when she decided to bring this application to stop the NPA from exercising its statutory duty and constitutional mandate.

“She had a high bar to reach in her attempt to convince the court that her imminent arrest was going to infringe upon her constitutional right. Fortunately, the judiciary remains one of the strongest democratic institutions in South Africa and this was again evident in the court’s dismissal of her application.”

Njau said ironically, as the head of Parliament, a legislative arm of the government responsible for making the law – the Speaker was expected to adhere to and respect the very law that Parliament had passed.

“From our perspective the Speaker’s bid to challenge her arrest was nothing but an attempt to protect her reputation by virtue of her office as the Speaker of Parliament. This application was defective from the onset. Procedurally the Speaker had failed to follow the court processes and directives and she failed to convince the court on how her arrest was going to be unlawful.

“Unfortunately for the Speaker she caused more damage to the reputation she was trying to protect by losing an application she had no prospect of winning.”

Njau added that she is facing very serious allegations and as a citizen of the country she must allow the law to take its course and allow the criminal justice processes to unfold and defend the cases brought against her through proper channels and stay away from seeking special treatments as well equal before the law regardless of our positions and status.

Attorney Konrad Röntgen said Mapisa-Nqakula’s application to stay any and or all proceedings against her for the moment is unheard of.

“The contents of the police docket can only be disclosed to the defence after an accused has been charged and the investigation has been completed, not before the time.”

He said the right to a fair trial does not, per se, mean an accused is entitled to know what the full extent of the State’s case is, before being charged.

“She is not yet an ‘accused’ person and was not served with an indictment. This suggests that she cannot rely on her constitutional rights afforded to an accused person, regarding access to documents and evidence against her.”

Pretoria News