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S.Africa's ex-parliament speaker charged in graft probe

Johannesburg, South Africa | April 5, 2024, Friday @ 06:15 in World » AFRICA | By: AFP | Views: 2106
S.Africa's ex-parliament speaker charged in graft probe

FILES) Speaker of the South African National Assembly Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula (C back) presides over a debate to the possibility of initiating proceedings to remove South African President Cyril Ramaphosa from office, at a parliamentary session in Cape Town on December 13, 2022. South Africa's parliament speaker Comrade Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has resigned, her party said on April 3, 2024, weeks after her home was raided in a graft probe likely to hurt the ruling ANC head of elections in May. Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula is accused of soliciting hefty amounts in bribes from a former military contractor when she was defence minister between 2014 and 2021 before being appointed speaker. (Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP)

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South Africa's former parliament speaker was charged with corruption and money laundering Thursday, piling new pressure on the governing African National Congress (ANC) party ahead of elections in May.

Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who resigned her speaker post Wednesday, appeared before a court in Pretoria after she turned herself in to police and was formally arrested.

"Charges against Ms Mapisa-Nqakula are 12 counts of corruption... and one of money laundering," Bheki Manyathi of the National Prosecuting Authority told the court.

Wearing a yellow and blue dress and matching head-cover as she sat in the dock, the 67-year-old ANC veteran remained silent, and was later granted release on bail.

"I'm not at flight risk," she said in a statement read by her lawyer Graham Kerr-Phillips. "I will receive a state pension which I cannot afford to lose," she added, while describing the case against her as weak.

Coming just under two months before national elections, the case has added to the woes of the ANC, which is struggling in opinion polls amid a weak economy and accusations of official graft and mismanagement.

Mapisa-Nqakula, is the latest in a string of senior ANC politicians, including President Cyril Ramaphosa and his vice president, to become embroiled in corruption scandals.

She is accused of soliciting hefty bribes from a former military contractor during her previous tenure as defence minister, from 2014 to 2021. She denies the allegations.

- 'Gratifications' -

Manyathi said the politician allegedly asked for "gratifications" totalling more than 4.5 million rand ($240,000). A state witness confirmed paying her a 2.1 million rand bribe, he added.

The judge set bail at 50,000 rand and adjourned the case to June 4. Mapisa-Nqakula will have to hand in her passport and avoid any contact with state witnesses.

On Wednesday, Mapisa-Nqakula resigned as parliament speaker and as a lawmaker with immediate effect, a day after losing a court bid to prevent her possible arrest.

In a resignation letter, she maintained her innocence but said she had decided to step down to uphold the integrity of parliament and focus on the investigation against her.

"Given the seriousness of the much-publicised allegations against me, I cannot continue in this role," she wrote.

The move followed a March raid carried out by members of a top investigative team at Mapisa-Nqakula's residence, a high-end property in an eastern suburb of Johannesburg.

Parliament said she would be replaced by her deputy, Lechesa Tsenoli.

But on Thursday, the leading opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, called for a new speaker to be elected immediately.

Mapisa-Nqakula was appointed speaker in a move that drew sharp criticism from opposition groups.

At the time, she had come under fire for perceived incompetence in responding to a spate of deadly unrest that saw more than 300 people killed.

South Africans head to the polls in national and provincial elections on May 29.

The ANC is expected to see its share of the vote drop below 50 percent for the first time since the advent of democracy in 1994, potentially forcing it to form a coalition with rival parties to remain in power. B

© Agence France-Presse

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