S.Africa’s ex-parliament speaker arrested in graft probeThu, 04 Apr 2024 08:41:28 GMT

South Africa’s former parliament speaker was arrested Thursday as part of a graft inquiry, the latest scandal to hit the governing African National Congress (ANC) party ahead of elections in May.Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who resigned her speaker post Wednesday, was formally detained after handing herself in to police near Pretoria, prosecutors said.  The ANC veteran was due to appear before a judge and be formally charged with corruption and money laundering, Henry Mamothame, a spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority, told AFP.”She’s appearing at the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court,” Mamothame said.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 the president and vice president, to be embroiled in corruption scandals.The 67-year-old is accused of soliciting hefty amounts in bribes from a former military contractor during her previous tenure as defence minister. She denies the allegations.- Resignation letter -On Wednesday, Mapisa-Nqakula resigned as 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. Local media reports said she had allegedly solicited 2.3 million rand ($121,000) in bribes from a former military contractor.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 urgently elected. Mapisa-Nqakula served as defence minister between 2014 and 2021 before being appointed speaker in a move that drew much criticism from the opposition. 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.