Thirty years of career collapsed in three weeks. Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s fortunes took a nosedive on March 19 when investigators raided her house looking for gifts allegedly given to her in exchange for subcontracts when she was defense minister. The South African National Prosecutor’s Office accuses him of having demanded nearly 4,550,000 rands (224,000 euros) in bribes and of ultimately receiving 2,150,000 rands (106,000 euros) between 2016 and 2019.

The search in March shook the President of the National Assembly. She initially withdrew, before agreeing to resign on Wednesday April 3. The next morning, she went to a police station to be presented to a judge. A few hours later, she arrived in a court in Pretoria to sit on the stiff benches of a court of law under the gaze of her husband. “My client is now a retiree,” her lawyer said in a merciful tone.

The rapid descent into hell of his comrade must relieve the African National Congress (ANC). The presidential party would have been embarrassed if Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula had resisted justice more. By accepting his fate, after having nevertheless tried to prevent his arrest, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula shows “his intention to protect the reputation of our organization”, writes Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri, the spokesperson of the ANC, in a communicated. After the two presidential terms of Jacob Zuma (2009-2018), of which Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was defense minister, marked by corruption, the ANC boasts of a “new dawn” since the presidency of Cyril Ramaphosa.

In the campaign for the May 29 general elections, the ANC is still talking about “renewal,” with intolerance of corruption and executives who would assume their responsibilities in the face of justice. Reacting to the resignation of the Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr Ramaphosa welcomed a decision of integrity “which we should welcome and applaud”. From a formula, indictment for corruption without resistance thus transforms into ethical behavior respectful of democracy.

“The ANC always protects its own”

However, the sleight of hand does not work among opposition parliamentarians, who do not understand how Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was able to remain in office despite the accusations against her. “We have been calling for this resignation for a long time, amid suspicions of corruption and money laundering,” writes Siviwe Gwarube, leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the National Assembly. An alert was issued on March 26, 2021 by MP Bantu Holomisa, leader of the United Democracy Movement. However, on August 19, 2021, Ms. Mapisa-Nqakula was elected President of the National Assembly on the proposal of the ANC, and therefore Cyril Ramaphosa.

“The ANC always protects its own, despite strong suspicions of corruption,” laments MP Bantu Holomisa. “Look at the findings of the Zondo anti-corruption commission! They pointed the finger at ministers, but Cyril Ramaphosa did nothing against them. Which I can understand, because he also received money from Bosasa [company which allegedly served as the ANC’s secret financier]. Everything is rotten, from head to toe. » Among the list of candidates for the May 29 elections, six names appear in the reports of the Zondo anti-corruption commission which investigated the abuses of the Zuma years.

” Accountable “

Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s next court hearing is scheduled for June 4, after the elections. The dust will have had time to settle, the ANC must hope, which is threatened with losing its majority for the first time in its history, against a backdrop of growing unpopularity. “It does not reflect well on the ANC to have a prominent figure prosecuted for such charges, in a context where the party has taken no action to sanction her. Just ahead of the elections, this is a further indication that voters have reason to be skeptical and distrustful of the ANC’s commitment to fighting corruption and accountability,” comments Karam Singh, Director from the NGO Corruption Watch.

For his part, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula maintains his innocence. “I will clear my name,” she wrote in the statement announcing her resignation. She denounces “malicious prosecutions based on weak evidence”. While her first appearance before a judge was simply to determine her detention regime – she obtained bail – her lawyer began trying to dismantle the prosecution case. It would be “weak”, would only have one witness and would be fueled by a search which would have yielded nothing, he maintains… “Don’t go into that area,” the prosecutor’s representative retorted. I know what is in the file (…) it is not weak, quite the contrary. »