Newly elected National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has vowed to never take for granted the confidence the ANC has placed on her to lead Parliament. She added that she would never betray South Africans.
This is after she was elected Speaker on Thursday afternoon despite growing opposition to her elevation. Controversy around her choice was compounded by a report by News24 that Parliament’s portfolio committee on defence was investigating allegations of corruption and misuse of her office surfaced hours before her election.
Political analysts Onkgopotse JJ Tabane, Lukhona Mnguni and the New Nation Movement sent a letter to the acting National Assembly Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli on Wednesday challenging her suitability.
They said Mapisa- Nqakula was imposed on the ANC’s members of Parliament who had to follow the instructions of the party’s top six leaders.
“The actions of the president were widely welcomed by our clients because they believed that the removal and/or dismissal of Mapisa-Nqakula from the Cabinet was effected as a result of her long history of allegations of corruption and misgovernance, involving, inter alia, misuse of public funds and facilities, and nepotism, to mention a few.
“The joint standing committee on defence is currently and/or is contemplating conducting an inquiry into further allegations made by a whistle-blower, implicating Ms Mapisa-Nqakula in further and specific corrupt activities,” read the letter from Mabuza Attorneys.
On Wednesday, the EFF said it would be abstaining from her election as it did not want to be complicit in “rubber stamping Ramaphosa’s violation of the separation of powers”.
After her election, Mapisa-Nqakula said: “This is particularly an emotional occasion for me seated among you in the benches during proceedings and election. I really felt humbled to be nominated as a candidate for the position of Speaker of this house.
“I also felt great pride both as a member of this house and as a South African observing the exercise of democracy with all parties big and small fully utilising the opportunity and space to nominate and vote freely for candidates of their choice for the position of Speaker.
“It is upon this foundation that Parliament has continued to stand as the foremost custodian and protector of our democracy,” she said.
Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe, who was appointed by acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, presided over the election.
Mapisa-Nqakula was voted in by 199 MPs while the DA’s Annelie Lotriet, who was nominated by her party, received 82 while 17 votes were spoilt.
She said her election showed that the country had confidence in women taking up leadership positions.
“South Africa should celebrate that for the fifth time since the dawn of our democracy a woman has been elected as Speaker thereby demonstrating the confidence our county has shown in women leadership. That on its own makes an important statement about our commitment to the advancement of women and the defeat of patriarchy in our society, especially during Women’s Month,” she said.
She thanked the ANC for having confidence in her to lead the National Assembly. She then acknowledged former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma as well as President Cyril Ramaphosa for allowing her to serve in the executive.
“I therefore fully appreciate the extent of the transition that I must personally make in order to fulfil my obligations and those of this house to ensure accountability and oversight of the executive branch.
I also recognise that for us to succeed as a country all the three branches of the state should function in collaborative manner while exercising their distinct functions and roles without impediment.”
The new Speaker said political parties should set their differences aside and work towards national interest.
“It is important that this foundation of democratic participation would never be compromise not for personal things or narrow party-political interests. All our people represented wholly by the members deployed by various parties in this Parliament should all feel comfortable that their interests, however diverse, have due consideration and have confidence in Parliament’s role as the last line in the defence of our hard-earned democracy,” she said.
Mapisa-Nqakula was fired as defence minister two weeks ago when Ramaphosa reshuffled the Cabinet which also saw former finance and health ministers Tito Mboweni and Zweli Mkhize, respectively, resign.
She was the only member of the heavily criticised state security cluster who was axed after the cluster responded late to the insurrection last month. She had contradicted Ramaphosa’s characterisation of the unrest as an insurrection, saying it was just a “counter-revolution”.
Despite this, the ANC’s top brass backed her nomination as the replacement for Thandi Modise who got her old job.
The red berets said they would be consulting with their lawyers to establish whether it was permissible for the president to hire and fire the Speaker of Parliament.