South Africa’s Minister of defense and military veteran speaks out on her alleged smuggling of a Burundian Woman into the country through an air force jet, saying such statement is hurtful and unfair to her personality.
The defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was reported to have flown from the Waterkloof Air Force base to the DRC where she secured the release of a Burundian Woman called Michelle Wege, who was arrested at the time.
The report further stated that Mapisa-Nqakula not only admitted to ‘helping’ the friend after she had allegedly been arrested for carrying a false passport, but has also defended her actions, saying she would do it again if she had to.
In a recently released statement, Defence Minister Mapisa-Nqakula said she is hurt and saddened by the report‚ as well as the deliberate attempt to twist the facts in this matter.
“For more than two years now‚ my family and I have been living with a young woman‚ a Burundian national that was forced to leave her home to escape a life of abuse at the hands of her father. Her mother died‚ having committed suicide due to abuse when the little girl as three years old‚” says Mapisa-Nqakula adding that the the woman‚ who had become her family’s friend‚ had expressed a wish to live in South Africa to pursue her studies and to live in “safe” environment.
“It is therefore completely misleading‚ as reported by the Sunday Times‚ that I had organised a trip and assembled a delegation of senior military and government officials‚ simply to travel to the Congo to illegally ‘smuggle’ a child. Mimi had been lawfully released by the Congolese government after my clarification of her circumstances and the conclusion of their own investigation‚” Mapisa-Nqakula said.
The 22-year old Burundian woman Michelle Wege‚ was detained by officials at Kinshasa International Airport 10 days before her alleged release by the Minister‚ when she tried to board a South African Airways flight to Johannesburg.
She was arrested for travelling using fraudulent documents‚ which had allegedly been organised by Mapisa-Nqakula’s sister‚ Nosithembele Nontobeko Mapisa‚ who worked in the Burundi embassy at the time.
To this, the minister reiterate not regretting her acts of helping the young woman. “I will sacrifice everything for Michelle… I’d do it again if I had to.” said Mapisa-Nqakula
Meanwhile, Congress of the People (COPE) has condemned the defence minister’s act saying no matter how noble she claims to frame her action, “smuggling a Burundian woman into South Africa” means she can “no longer remain in office”
Speaking on Monday on the issue, Cope’s Dennis Bloem said: “if the minister of defence can breach national security in this manner‚ we are well on our way to becoming a banana republic” adding that her act reminds them of the Guptas.
“Who will ever forget how the Guptas landed a plane load of wedding guests at the Waterkloof Military Airforce Base without permission and cleared the passengers without customs checks?
“This very same minister said then that she knew nothing whatsoever” about the Gupta landing‚ so it “is not surprising therefore that she felt confident enough to smuggle somebody into the country and hoping that it would go undetected” Bloem noted.
“If she wanted to help Michelle Wege enter South Africa‚ she should have followed the normal course and paid for her to come to South Africa with her own money‚ not use state resources‚” he said.
“However noble her intentions‚ she violated the Constitution. She can no longer remain in office.”