From alleged R5m bribe to ‘smuggling a friend’: Five scandals that have dogged Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula

23 August 2021 - 12:00 By unathi nkanjeni
Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who was elected as the National Assembly's new speaker last week, has faced several allegations of wrongdoing. File photo.
Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who was elected as the National Assembly's new speaker last week, has faced several allegations of wrongdoing. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images / Rapport / Deaan Vivier

Newly appointed National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has come under fire after reportedly being accused of receiving bribes totalling R5m and living her best life in luxury hotels.    

Mapisa-Nqakula was appointed the new speaker after Thandi Modise was appointed the new minister of defence and military veterans in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet reshuffle earlier this month.

Her appointment as the speaker was met with a cold reception by opposition parties, who deemed her not fit for the role. 

Here are five scandals that have dogged Mapisa-Nqakula:

R5m bribe

According to News24, a task team has been appointed by parliament’s joint standing committee on defence to investigate allegations of bribes totalling R5m against Mapisa-Nqakula. 

She allegedly received the bribes from a defence contractor. She was also accused of  blowing R7m on aircraft charters and lived it up at luxury hotels.

It was reported that the joint standing committee on defence appointed the task team to investigate the allegations against her two months ago while she was minister of defence and military veterans.

She denied the allegations in a letter to the committee.

Contradicting Ramaphosa during violent unrest 

Before her new appointment, Mapisa-Nqakula came under fire from the ANC after seemingly contradicting Ramaphosa when he said the violent unrest in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal was an “attempted insurrection” that failed to gain popular support.

During an appearance before a parliamentary committee, Mapisa-Nqakula said there was no sign of a coup or insurrection, but a “counter-revolution” had taken place.

She later changed her statement after former acting minister in the presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said her views on the unrest were ill-informed.

“The president has spoken. It was an attempted insurrection. I confined myself to counter-revolutionary but ultimately, remember, any element of counter-revolution may lead to insurrection in a country,” said Mapisa-Nqakula.

Accused of violating health protocols over Cuban drug for SANDF

Earlier this year, Mapisa-Nqakula was taken to task by MPs after the army allegedly violated rules and health regulatory protocols when procuring an unregistered medical drug, Heberon (interferon alpha-2b), from Cuba. 

She admitted to knowing about the procurement and supporting the military in its acquisition of the drug, but said she had no idea the drug was not registered with the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority, and that all procurement laws were sidestepped by the military when importing it into the country.

The drug cost more than R200m and about 40% of it was ordered to be destroyed after indications it was not properly stored by the SA Military Health Services for at least 20 hours at the correct temperature of between 2°C and 8°C.

Giving fellow ANC members a lift to Zimbabwe

In 2020, Mapisa-Nqakula found herself in the 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. 

TimesLIVE reported the delegation was 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 (Sadc) summit.

Military spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini defended the decision to transport members of the ANC, saying there was nothing inappropriate about the travel arrangements.

“[Mapisa-Nqakula] was travelling to Zimbabwe to meet her counterpart in preparation for a Sadc Troika meeting and the UN reconfiguration of the Force Intervention, which comprises troops from the Sadc region.

“The ANC delegation was going to deal with issues that are having a direct impact on SA. This is not a common occurrence and has never happened before,” said Dlamini.

Smuggling a woman in a state jet

In 2016, Mapisa-Nqakula admitted to misusing a state jet to “smuggle” a woman from Burundi with a false passport into SA. 

In an interview with Sunday Times at the time, Mapisa-Nqakula said Michelle Wege was a friend of her sister’s children. The Sunday Times later reported the woman was in a relationship with the minister’s son, Chumani, at the time of her “rescue”. 

She claimed the woman came from an abused family and needed her help. 

Mapisa-Nqakula denied abusing her power, saying: “I’d do it again if I had to.

“There was nothing wrong in giving Michelle a lift on the air force plane. My sole intention was to save her from abuse, and give her education and love.”