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By Brian Sokutu

Senior Print Journalist

Mapisa-Nqakula tries to punch holes in state’s case, says she ’embraces the legal system’

Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula granted bail amidst fears of prison conditions and mounting corruption charges.

For former National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, imprisonment under what she has described as “a terrible state of SA’s prisons” – unsafe, without proper medical care, crime-ridden and staffed by overwhelmed wardens – would not be desirable.

This was among factors presented on Thursday in her affidavit during a bail application, granted by the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court at R50 000.

Mapisa-Nqakula is facing charges on 12 counts of corruption and one of money laundering, involving more than R4 million.

Mapisa-Nqakula warned to surrender passport

In granting bail, Magistrate Anna Oosthuizen warned Mapisa-Nqakula to surrender her passport and return to court on 4 June, when the state would present a second witness.

The charges stem from her tenure as defence minister, when she allegedly pocketed millions in kickbacks from defence contracts. Umkhombe Marine, the company owned by the wife of SA National Defence Force (SANDF) General Noel Ndhlovu, Nombasa Ntsondwa-Ndhlovu, reportedly scored R210 million from SANDF tenders in 2019.

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In an affidavit read by defence counsel advocate Graham Kerr-Phillips, Mapisa-Nqakula cited former president Jacob Zuma’s treatment in a private hospital while he was in jail for contempt, arguing it showed prisons had inadequate medical care.

Not in position to cope with imprisonment

Mapisa-Nqakula said she was not in a physical or mental position to cope with being imprisoned, referring to a judge’s report outlining the shocking, overcrowded state of prisons.

The state alleges:

  • From December 2016 to July 2019, Mapisa-Nqakula formed a corrupt relationship with Ndhlovu, who made payments to her amounting to R2.1 million.
  • Twelve offences were committed by Mapisa-Nqakula in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act.
  • Mapisa-Nqakula used some of the bribes to fund renovations to her home in Johannesburg.

Punching holes in the state’s case, Mapisa-Nqakula argued its failure to recover two designer handbags allegedly linked to the corruption case and a bear skin, whose relevance remained unclear, demonstrated it did not have a strong case.

“It cannot be shown I have a disposition to commit crime,” she said. “I embrace the legal system.”

ALSO READ: Former prisons minister Mapisa-Nqakula wants to avoid jail – says they’re unsafe, lack proper medical care

The wig the state seized from her home was one of “many” and she questioned why it was taken.

State relied on single witness

Plus, she said, the state’s case relied on a single witness.

Police also did not find the large cash amounts they were looking for.

“They seized certain receipts in my husband’s study, which [he] believes related to purchases of house maintenance projects around 2016 to 2019,” she said.

Mapisa-Nqakula said she had no idea what the state had offered to the Section 204 witness from who she is alleged to have received bribes.

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Although she faced schedule five charges, considered serious with the onus resting on her to prove the interests of justice permitted her release on bail, the state did not oppose her application.

She was not a flight risk, had handed herself over to police and had a fixed residential address.

Former speaker resigned on Wednesday

Mapisa-Nqakula resigned as National Assembly speaker on Wednesday, hours before she was due to appear in court.

Investigating Directorate deputy director of public prosecutions Bheki Manyathi hit back at claims the state had “a weak case”, saying she had no access to the evidence against her.

He said the state had “a strong case”.

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