Who Is Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, the 7th Speaker of National Assembly?

A well-known legislator, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, has been working as a member of the parliament for close to two decades now. Before becoming NA Speaker, she was one of the longest-serving ministers of the ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC). Over the years, she has served in diverse structures of the party and thus, is regarded as a vital cog in the inner workings of ANC. Following years of playing executive roles in government, including serving as the Minister of Home Affairs, Minister of Correctional Services, and Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Mapisa-Nqakula was elected the seventh speaker of the National Assembly on August 19th, 2021.

Having been involved in series of controversies since the inception of her political career, the former Minister of Home Affairs’ appointment to the highest seat of the national legislature after being voted in by the members of the parliament has not come without strong opposition. Nonetheless, she has moved on to pledge her willingness to work with all the national assembly members irrespective of the parties for the nation’s best interest.

Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s Profile Summary

  • Full Name: Nosiviwe Noluthando Mapisa-Nqakula
  • Date of Birth: November 13th, 1956
  • Age: 64 years Old
  • Place of Birth: Cape Town, South Africa
  • Nationality: South African
  • Education: College of Bensonvale and Canadian University Overseas Studies
  • Occupation: Politician (7th Speaker of the National Assembly)
  • Political Party: African National Congress (ANC)
  • Marital Status: Married
  • Spouse: Charles Nqakula

How Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula Became The 7th Speaker of The National Assembly

During Jacob Zuma’s administration, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was inaugurated as the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans on June 12th, 2012. She also executed the role in the administration of Cyril Ramaphosa. Following a spree of deadly unrest and looting in KwaZulu-Natal and some parts of Gauteng, there was a public outcry for the defence minister to resign as the national defence force wasn’t prepared for it. Consequently, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa relieved Nosiviwe of her duties as the defence minister and replaced her with the then National Assembly Speaker, Thandi Modise.

This happened on August 5th, 2021, when the president reshuffled his cabinet. He stated after her replacement that she would be appointed to a new role. As the seat of the Speaker of the National Assembly became vacant due to the reshuffling of the president’s cabinet, there was a need for a new speaker to be elected from the members of the parliament as stated by the Constitution. Hence, the African National Congress leadership nominated Mapisa-Nqakula as the party’s candidate for the Speaker position.

The decision, however, was met with heavy criticisms and opposition by other political parties and civil society organizations. Nevertheless, the famed legislator moved on to win the election held at the parliament building in Cape Town on August 19th, 2021. It was the first full sitting of the National Assembly since the outbreak of the pandemic. The former correctional services minister was elected the Speaker by the National Assembly after carting away with the votes of 199 parliament members. Judge President John Hlophe of the Western Cape Courts, who presided over the sitting, appointed Nosiviwe as the Speaker after announcing the election result.

Who Did The Politician Beat in the Speaker Race?

In early August 2021, when the Speaker seat was vacant, a special African National Congress caucus meeting was called by the party chief whip, Pemmy Majodina. During the meeting, chaired by the party chairperson, Gwede Mantashe, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was declared the ANC leadership’s preferred candidate. Then during the special sitting of the National Assembly on August 19th, 2021, that was convened for the sole purpose of the nomination of the Speaker, the Democratic Alliance (DA) (the parliament’s second-largest party after the African National Congress) opposed ANC’s choice of candidate. Thus, Dr. Annelie Lotriet was nominated as the party’s candidate for the speaker seat.

She is the Democratic Alliance’s caucus chairperson and was nominated by the party’s chief whip, Natasha Mazzone. The nomination was seconded by DA leader John Steenhuisen. The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) declined to participate in the election due to the circumstances surrounding the nomination of Mapisa-Nqakula as the ANC’s preferred candidate. The political party also cited that the reshuffling of the president’s cabinet, which left the seat of the Speaker vacant undermined the spirit of the country’s constitutional democracy. Hence, Dr. Lotriet was Nosiviwe’s only rival candidate. Following her nomination by the DA, a voting process was conducted by secret ballot.

During the general election, out of the 400 seats in the National Assembly, ANC occupied 57.50 percent of the total seats (230 seats), while DA took 20.77 percent of the total seats (84 seats). After the voting process was concluded, officials of the parliament designated as the returning officer and assistant returning officers counted the votes in the presence of Judge President John Hlophe. He then announced the outcome of the election process in the sitting. Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula defeated her rival, Dr. Annelie Lotriet, by 199 votes to 82 votes from the National Assembly members, with 17 votes spoilt.

Why Her Recent Political Appointment Has Been Heavily Criticized

As the new Speaker of the National Assembly, Mapisa-Nqakula has to shoulder the responsibility of providing political and strategic direction to the house. She is expected to exercise impartiality while carrying out her duties. Due to these requirements, some critics have deemed her unfit for the position, following her past records of misconduct which seemed to have undermined the parliament’s authority. The Democratic Alliance also expressed their concern regarding her appointment and has regarded it as a complete mockery of the parliament and the constitution.

The party further stated that the ex-defence minister has incessantly shown disdain for transparency and accountability. Thus, her competence and probity to take up such an important role as the presiding officer in the National Assembly are being doubted. Also, in the statement released by the party, they cited that her appointment is a move by the ANC to render the parliament toothless as it will disarm the parliament from ensuring transparency and accountability.

Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was axed by the president as the minister of defence and military veterans after she was perceived as incompetent in responding to the violence that erupted due to the incarceration of South Africa’s former president, Jacob Zuma. She contradicted President Ramaphosa’s claim that the spree of deadly unrest and looting had been a failed attempted insurrection by stating that the riots and lootings were the works of counter-revolutionaries. Currently, she is under parliamentary investigation for allegedly taking bribes from a defence contractor.

Despite the controversies surrounding her personality, the ANC executive member has pleaded for collaboration between the three branches of the state to address issues of national interests.

Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula Has Impressive Educational Qualifications

The 64-year-old politician completed her basic education at Mount Arthur High School. She subsequently attended Bensonvale Teacher TRG College, where she achieved a Primary Teacher’s Diploma. Later on, she obtained a Diploma in Project Management from the Canadian University Overseas Studies. She is presently said to be studying Psychology at Newport University. Before taking to politics, Mapisa-Nqakula laid a solid foundation for her political career by undergoing some training, including Youth Leadership and Community Development training.

She further equipped herself by studying basic courses such as Communications, Basic Human Relations, and Community Development. No wonder her political career has spanned many decades and is still blossoming.

Highlights of Her Academic History 

  • Mount Arthur High School
  • Canadian University Overseas Studies (Diploma in Project Management)
  • Bensonvale Teacher TRG College (Primary Teacher’s Diploma)
  • Newport University

Before Her Political Career, Nosiviwe Worked as a Teacher

Having garnered a wealth of knowledge in the teaching field, the famed political figure began her career as a teacher in 1978. She taught at Bensonvale Junior Secondary School and St. Matthews Teachers’ Training College the next year. Between 1981 and 1982, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was involved in a project of SANSSA and served as a youth worker with Target Timothy. She eventually became associated with open schools and assisted students (matric-drop-outs) from disadvantaged communities.

From 1982 to 1984, she also was involved in the South African Institute of Race Relation (SAIRR) project and worked as the assistant director of Masazane Open School. In 1982, she became a founding member of the East London Domestic Workers Association (ELDWA). She held her first political role in 1984 when she was appointed the head of commission designated for investigating the desertions of the African National Congress MK members to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Angola.

She Has Held Many Prestigious Positions in the ANC

The eminent legislator worked with the political-military structures within the African National Congress for many years and, in the process, helped rebuild the party structures. In 1984, she went for military training in Angola and then the Soviet Union. The following year, she visited Nairobi, Kenya, for the Equality Development and Peace seminar held in the country. Between 1988 and 1990, she worked as a representative of the ANC’s women league to the Pan African Women’s Organisation (PAWO). As a result, she attended the 1989 PAWO regional seminar organized in Lusaka.

Later in 1990, she visited Amsterdam, attending Malibongwe Conference. From 1990 to 1993, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was a member of ANC’s National Executive Committee and worked as the national organizer for the party’s women’s section. She also served as a member of the ANC’s National Executive Committee between 1993 and 1997 and, at the time, worked as the ANC’s women’s league secretary-general (1993-1995). Furthermore, the politician was elected Theme 3 Core Group Member of the Constitution-Making Process in 1994.

Also, in 1994, she was appointed the chairperson of the Joint Standing on Intelligence and Defence. In 2001, she was elected the chief whip of the party. She also served as the deputy chairperson of the African National Congress political committee in 2001 and emerged as the party’s women’s league president in 2003. Mapisa-Nqakula served in that position for five years.

For Nine Years, She Served as the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans 

On April 29th, 2004, the ex-defence minister succeeded Mangosuthu Buthelezi as the Minister of Home Affairs during the administration of Thabo Mbeki. She served in that position for five years and left the office on May 10th, 2009, following her appointment by Jacob Zuma as the Minister of Correctional Services. She stayed in the office from May 11th, 2009, to June 12th, 2012, and was succeeded by S’bu Ndebele. Nosiviwe then resumed her duties as the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans on June 12th, 2012, during the administration of Jacob Zuma, succeeding Lindiwe Sisulu. She still maintained her role even when Cyril Ramaphosa came into office as the President of South Africa in 2018.

She was later removed from the position by the president and was replaced with former National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise on August 5th, 2021. Then on August 19th, 2021, the politician was elected by the members of parliament as the 7th Speaker of the National Assembly. She is the 5th female Speaker to preside over the house. Since 2004, she has been serving as a member of the parliament and equally, has been a member of the National Executive Council (NEC) since December 2007.

Political Positions Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula Has Held So Far

  • Representative of the ANC Women’s League to the Pan African Women’s Organisation (PAWO) (1988-1990)
  • Member of ANC’s National Executive Committee (1990-1997)
  • ANC’s Women’s League Secretary-General (1993-1995)
  • Chairperson of the Joint Standing on Intelligence and Defence since 1994
  • Theme 3 Core Group Member of the Constitution-Making Process since 1994
  • Chief Whip of the African National Congress (2001)
  • Deputy Chairperson of ANC’s Political Committee (2001)
  • President of the African National Congress Women League (ANCWL) (2003-2008)
  • Member of the Parliament since 2004
  • ANC’s Member of the National Executive Council (NEC) since December 2007
  • Minister of Home Affairs (2004-2009)
  • Minister of Correctional Services (2009-2012)
  • Minister of Defence and Military Veterans (2012-2021)
  • Speaker of National Assembly (2021)

Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula is Happily Married to Charles Nqakula

Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has been married to Charles Nqakula for over three decades, though the date the two legally became man and wife is yet to be made public. The lovely couple had four children but lost one to the cold hands of death in 2015. The couple has successfully kept their children away from the spotlight. As a result, information regarding their career paths and personal lives is unavailable. However, like his significant other, Mr. Nqakula has been active in the political arena and has occupied important positions in government as a distinguished member of the African National Congress.

He is currently president Ramaphosa’s national security advisor and previously served as Jacob Zuma’s political advisor. He has been serving as the High Commissioner to the Republic of Mozambique from South Africa since June 2012. Before the appointment, he served as the South African Communist Party General Secretary in 1993 and was succeeded in 1998 by Blade Nzimande. From January 2001 to May 2002, he served as the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs and then emerged as the Minister of Safety and Security on May 7th, 2002. Following his appointment, Charles Nqakula became the chairperson of the Justice, Crime Prevention, and Security cluster of Ministers.

Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula
(Image Source)

He stayed in the office until September 25th, 2008, when he was appointed the interim Minister of Defence of the Republic of South Africa. He vacated the position the following year. It’s worth noting that before Nqakula ventured into politics, he worked as a wine steward and waiter in a hotel. He further worked as the Department of Bantu Education’s clerk and then transitioned to a seasoned journalist in the late 1960s and 1970s. He kicked off his journalism career in 1966, working for a regional weekly newspaper in Cradock called Midland News.

He later worked for the Daily Dispatch and Imvo Zabantsundu before joining the Union of Black Journalists. He was elected the union’s vice president in 1976, and the union was banned by the apartheid government the following year. He later served as the vice president of the Writers’ Association of South Africa (WASA), as well as the vice president of the Media Workers’ Association of South (MWASA).

Their Son, Chumani Nqakula, Was Murdered in October 2015

On October 31st, 2015, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and her husband lost their second son named Chumani Nqakula. He was allegedly stabbed to death on a Saturday night by one of his close friends, Carlos Higuera, in Bezuidenhout Valley, Johannesburg. The 23-year-old was stabbed in the upper part of the body and died at the scene. Nosiviwe, who was the defence minister at the time, was away on a state visit to Bangkok when the tragedy happened. The culprit, who was then 24 years old, was arrested and charged to Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court.

On his first appearance in court, Higuera had a wound on his head that was allegedly given to him by the deceased and another man. His lawyer, Jabulani Maluleke, later revealed that his client was mentally ill and displayed symptoms in the past years. He further stated that his client became mentally ill after losing his mother and girlfriend in the same month in 2010. Following the report, Carlos Higuera was examined at Sterkfontein Hospital and was later sent back to the state medical facility as he was unfit to stand trial. Hence, the murder accused was not prosecuted due to him being mentally unwell but was detained at the hospital for some time.

A Look at The Controversies Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula Has Courted in The Past Years

Throughout her long-spanning career in politics, the new NA Speaker has been involved in some controversies that at one time posed a threat to her political ambitions. Thanks to her high profile in the political arena, her career could have been ended by the Travelgate fraud scandal that led to the resignation of some members of the parliament.

Travelgate Fraud Scandal

In January 2005, the biggest corruption scandal in Mzansi since the post-apartheid era surfaced as over 75 members of the parliament were implicated in a fraud scandal following their usage of the parliamentary travel vouchers valued at £1.5 million to pay for exorbitant trips for themselves and relatives. The MPs involved in the scandal reportedly went on lavish trips unrelated to work with the travel vouchers issued by the government to assist them in visiting their constituencies. While some of the inflated claims for their travel allowances, others gave free tickets to their relatives.

Among those involved in the scandal is Nosiviwe Mapasi-Nqakula. She, alongside other politicians, over 60 in number, agreed to repay the debt to liquidators, having admitted to owing money to the implicated travel agencies. She reportedly received a letter questioning discrepancies in the travel claims submitted to the parliament in her name. Consequently, she paid an undisclosed amount for outstanding travel expenses to the liquidators of Bathong Travel.

Later in 2011, outstanding debt of R12 million owed to the parliament by the MPs implicated in the scandal was written off by the parliament. Thus, the politicians have been exonerated, and no further action was taken against them. Out of the 79 members implicated in the scandal, only six were criminally prosecuted, while the rest weren’t charged.

Smuggling Scandal

In May 2016, Mapisa-Nqakula was heavily criticized for smuggling a 28-year-old Burundian lady, who happened to be dating one of her sons, into South Africa on a state jet. The lady was arrested at the Democratic Republic of Congo for trying to board a commercial plane to South Africa with falsified documents, reportedly arranged for her by Nosiviwe’s sister, who was associated with the Burundi embassy at the time. The ex-defence minister’s sister was suspended from the embassy but later got recalled.

After the arrest of the Burundian lady in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula came to her rescue by smuggling her into South Africa with a false passport. During the investigation, the politician admitted to flying from Waterkloof Air Force Base to DRC to pick up a Burundian lady arrested for falsifying travel documents. She insisted that there was nothing wrong with what she did and would do it again to sacrifice everything for the lady. She was investigated for some time, and the outcome was never disclosed to the public.

Illegal Arrangement of ANC Delegates to Fly on a Military Jet

In 2020, Nosiviwe gave a lift to her party executive council members, including African National Congress secretary-general Ace Magashule, on a defence force plane for a non-governmental meeting. She arranged for her party’s delegation to fly to Zimbabwe on an air force jet on which they had no business. As a result, she was found guilty of misusing state resources for her party’s business. As allegations of the misconduct were leveled against her in parliament, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was forced to deduct three months from her last year’s salary. He stated that she did not act in the best interest of the government. Thus, her three months salary was paid to the Solidarity Fund.

Allegations of Receiving Bribes From a SANDF Contractor

Few months before being elected Speaker of the National Assembly, the ANC executive member was accused of spending $462,000 (R7 million) on private jet trips to Paris and New York from 2017 to 2019. She was also accused of collecting bribes valued at $330,000 (R5 million) from a South African National Defence Force (SANDF) contractor during such time. As a result, Nosiviwe Mpasi-Nqakula was under investigation by the parliamentary joint standing committee before she was elected the presiding officer in the parliament in August 2021.

Her alleged misconduct was revealed in a letter sent to the chairperson of the parliamentary joint standing committee on defence by General Bantu Holomisa, the leader of the United Democratic Movement (UDM), in April 2021. In the letter, he disclosed how the wads of cash and gifts received by the political figure from the defence contractor totaled R5 million. Some of the bribes the ex-minister of home affairs allegedly received include R300,000 given to her for her benefit by a senior SANDF official at the OR Tambo International Airport in November 2017 and multiple payments of cash worth R400,000 she received between February 2019 and July 2019.

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