Mapisa-Nqakula, no stranger to corruption scandals

Speaker of the National Assembly, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. Photographer: Armand Hough. African News Agency (ANA)

Speaker of the National Assembly, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. Photographer: Armand Hough. African News Agency (ANA)

Published Mar 30, 2024


UNDER-FIRE parliamentary Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula is accused of receiving over R2 million in bribes from a defence contractor during her time as defence minister.

With the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Investigating Directorate (ID) probing her, Mapisa-Nqakula has taken special leave of absence to protect the integrity and functioning of Parliament.

“This is despite my already pronounced innocence on the allegations made public against me,” Mapisa-Nqakula stated in the letter to Parliament.

Despite her top-tier appointments to various key government and Cabinet positions since 1994, Mapisa-Nqakula’s political career has been mired in allegations of corruption and abuse of power.

In 2016, it emerged that Mapisa-Nqakula allegedly smuggled a Burundian national into South Africa on an SA Air Force jet.

Independent Media reported that the woman’s father said his daughter had been set to marry Mapisa-Nqakula’s late son, Chumani Nqakula, secretly.

Chumani Nqakula was stabbed to death in Johannesburg, allegedly by his friend, Carlos Higuera, in 2015.

It was reported that Mapisa-Nqakula had allegedly organised a false passport for the 22-year-old Burundian woman to travel to South Africa with her in 2014.

She was allegedly picked up in the Democratic Republic of Congo by the minister using a state jet.

In her defence, Mapisa-Nqakula reportedly said she had rescued the Burundian from an abusive father and had had proper documentation arranged with the relevant authorities to let her enter South Africa.

At the time, the woman had been in the country for more than two years when the minister allegedly insisted she was taken from her country because her father was abusing her.

But her father denied the claims, saying he was a business partner of the minister. It is not clear what the nature of the business was.

In 2019, the former chief operations officer of Bosasa, Angelo Agrizzi, told the state capture commission headed by then Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that senior ANC leaders such as Mapisa-Nqakula and International Relations and Co-operation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, who were both members of the ANC's national executive committee, were among the shareholders of Dyambu Holdings, which later became Bosasa.

At the time, the commission also heard that Bosasa boss, the late Gavin Watson, showered the Post Office’s former head of security and Mapisa-Nqakula’s brother, Siviwe Mapisa, and the Post Office’s former chief executive, Maanda Manyatshe, with expensive gifts, including luxury Cartier and Monte Blanc pens as well as cufflinks and fake watches.

Documents revealed that Mapisa-Nqakula had a trust that was registered in 2007 of which Watson’s brother, Valence Watson, was a trustee along with Armscor chief executive Kevin Wakeford.

Bosasa became notorious for bribing senior leaders of the ANC in exchange for lucrative government tenders.

In 2020, Mapisa-Nqakula made headlines for misusing state resources for party business by allowing an ANC delegation to use an air force jet to travel to Zimbabwe to meet Zanu-PF officials over the unrest in that country at the time.

The delegation was allegedly given a lift by Mapisa-Nqakula, who had permission to travel to Zimbabwe to meet her counterpart to discuss defence-related matters in the region after a recent Southern African Development Community summit.

In 2021 a whistle-blower said Mapisa-Nqakula, during her time as defence minister, had allegedly received a bribe from a Department of Defence contractor.

A joint standing committee on defence abandoned an investigation into allegations of corruption against her after the whistle-blower failed to present more evidence against her.

In 2021, the DA urged President Cyril Ramaphosa to institute an urgent Special Investigating Unit (SIU) investigation into allegations that then Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Mapisa-Nqakula wasted millions of taxpayers’ rand on chartered flights and luxury accommodation.

The Sunday Independent reported in 2021 that Mapisa-Nqakula allegedly spent:

  • R4 million on a chartered flight from Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria to Cairo in Egypt in April 2019.
  • R400 000 on a five-day stay in the Marriott Essex House, a luxury hotel overlooking Central Park in New York, in September 2019.
  • R350 000 in November 2019 for a six-day stay at the Hotel Du Collectionneur Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, for her and three departmental attachés. And an Avis transport bill of nearly R150 000.
  • R2.5 million to charter an aircraft to Angola, Guinea, Ghana, and Togo, which bizarrely included a flight from Lanseria International Airport to Cape Town International Airport and one from Waterkloof Air Force Base to Lanseria International Airport, which was within driving distance.