Mapisa-Nqakula walks a tightrope

Controversy surrounds Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, with allegations of bribery and misuse of government resources.

The story of Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, the Speaker of the National Assembly, is as intriguing as it is fascinating.

The National Prosecuting Authority pounced on her house on Tuesday, to execute a search and seizure operation.

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This follows the news report about two weeks ago that she had allegedly received bribes amounting to about R2.3 million from a service provider while she was minister of defence. This is a case that was pending for a very long time.

I hope that my scepticism about whether any evidence will be secured as a result of the search will be proven wrong.

History shows us that cases involving high-profile political bigwigs and their associates, which are handled by law enforcement agencies, barely yield any positive results.

We are yet to see results from the Estina dairy case, the Guptas and now it looks like former interim chief executive officer of Eskom Matshela Koko’s case is heading in the same direction.

Mapisa-Nqakula always had a relationship with controversy while she was minister of defence. At some point, she converted a South African Air Force plane into a taxi to ferry her ANC comrades to Zimbabwe.

When asked why, she said she merely gave them a lift because she was going on government business to Zimbabwe and by some coincidence they were heading there as well.

Then she used the South African Air Force plane to fetch her child’s lover from somewhere in Africa.

To the best of my recollection, she was only punished for one indiscretion, which was for the conversion of the SA Air Force plane into a taxi. The punishment was a mere “reprimand” and retrieval of the taxi fare from her ANC comrades.

We were told the ANC subsequently paid the taxi fare. On the case of fetching her child’s lover from elsewhere in Africa, I have no idea what the punishment was or if it was regarded as malfeasance in the first place.

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This case is particularly interesting because it involves a benefactor who was arrested and entered into some legal arrangement, which will ultimately see her freed if her evidence can be proven to have merit and be credible, in which case the speaker will have to battle to clear her name.

This is a tightrope not only for the speaker but also for her political party as it goes into this May election, which, by any stretch of the imagination, is the toughest the ANC has faced since 1994.

Mapisa-Nqakula is one of the most senior leaders of the ANC and the head of parliament for that matter. I’m certain, against the background of the impeachments of former public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, Judge President Mandlakayise Hlophe of the Western Cape Division of the High Court and Judge Nkola Motata, the country and the opposition parties expect to see Mapisa-Nqakula step aside at the very least.

In this case, it will not help the speaker to play the “innocent-until-proven-guilty” card. The stakes are too high for the ruling party.

There are just too many odds stacked against it in this crucial election period. But with the ANC, power trumps integrity, if its leak of the parliamentary list is anything to go by.

The speaker may stay in her position. But if the ANC decides to protect her, as it did with Jacob Zuma, it may regret the cost. The ball is in the ANC’s court.

• Monama is an independent commentator and a former Azapo leader.

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