Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who is expected to be confirmed as the new National Assembly Speaker on Thursday, is under investigation for allegedly receiving a R5 million bribe from a defence contractor, blowing R7 million on aircraft charters and living it up at luxury hotels.
Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Defence appointed a task team to investigate the allegations against her two months ago.
At the time, Mapisa-Nqakula, whom President Cyril Ramaphosa removed from his Cabinet last week, was minister of defence and military veterans.
A task team consisting of MPs on the committee launched the investigation at the insistence of UDM leader and MP General Bantubonke Holomisa who had written two letters, on 26 March and 23 April, to the committee.
In them, Holomisa alleged between 2017 and 2019, Mapisa-Nqakula received gifts such as wigs and bribes totalling R5 million from a businessperson contracted to the military.
He also alleged she blew R7 million on aircraft charters, as well as staying in luxury hotels in New York and Paris.
The news crew contacted Mapisa-Nqakula and sent questions to her but she did not respond.
She did, however, deny the allegations in a letter sent to the committee in May.
Committee co-chairperson Mamagase Nchabeleng told News24 on Wednesday the task team would conclude its investigation by the end of August.
"After that, they will compile a report for the committee."
He said the report would also be sent to Parliament, adding the investigation would continue even though Mapisa-Nqakula was no longer the minister of defence and military veterans.
That means Mapisa-Nqakula, as Speaker, will have to consider how the report into her conduct must be processed by the National Assembly.
She will incidentally also preside over Parliament's investigation into her former department and other departments' handling of the violence in July following the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma.
The task team's terms of reference, a copy of which we have obtained, is to consider all the allegations made against Mapisa-Nqakula.
It will also attempt to reach out to whistleblowers and solicit their affidavits, verify and evaluate the evidence, and then advise the committee on how to proceed with the matter.
News24 has seen a detailed list of questions which Sueanne Isaac, Parliament's legal advisor who is also part of the task team, sent to the service provider who allegedly bribed Mapisa-Nqakula.
On 23 March 2021, Holomisa told the committee he came across the allegations when he stumbled on a list of questions a journalist had sent to Mapisa-Nqakula asking her about the alleged bribes.
"The below are serious allegations in that it not only talks to alleged corruption but in a very sensitive ministry.
"It would behove the committee to, as a point of departure, test whether there is truth to the alleged timelines and then ask the minister to explain herself to the committee before it may make a recommendation that further forensic investigation and a lifestyle audit might be warranted."
In his letter, he alleged former secretary of defence Dr Sam Gulube, who died last month, had received R300 000 from the unnamed service provider to benefit Mapisa-Nqakula.
"The minister received cash amounts ranging from R100 000 to R500 000 on 16 and 26 February, 13 March and 18 May, 2018, and between 22 May and 4 and 5 July, 2018 when the minister was to travel to Ghana.
"On 17 August 2018, the minister had asked for umphako [subsistence allowance] ahead of an event and was given R250 000 cash. On 14 September, the minister received R150 000 during a meeting at her home in Bruma [Johannesburg] at an evening meeting between 18:00 and 23:00," Holomisa wrote.
Mapisa-Nqakula allegedly made more payment demands from the service provider on 7 February and 17 March 2019, Holomisa said in the correspondence, adding on 3 April 2019, the service provider delivered R400 000 in cash to her home in Bruma.
"The minister had allegedly, in her various communications, asked the service provider for wigs and imithi [medication], corresponding with large withdrawals of cash which were delivered to her.
The letter read:Some of the money was allegedly spent renovating her home in Bruma, including buying 'Egyptian doors'.
It also alleged Mapisa-Nqakula's department had appointed a woman, who had close ties to her, to a senior financial management post, while her husband was awarded a contract as a supplier to Armscor.
"All the allegations above mean that Minister Mapisa-Nqakula might be seriously compromised and that the committee has an obligation to at least look at the proverbial smoke to see if there is a fire," Holomisa said.
He sent another letter to the committee on 26 March 2021, attaching WhatsApp messages he claimed were conversations between Mapisa-Nqakula and the service provider.
"These WhatsApp messages appear to corroborate, at the very least, that Minister Mapisa-Nqakula had asked the service provider under discussion for wigs at several points in time.
"I would like to specifically draw your attention to the three extracts below, where you will notice the use of traditional healer's lexicon and even the blatant reference to a payment in the December 9, 2019 chat [number 1].
"These alleged conversations between these two parties conclusively add to the 'where there is smoke, there is fire argument' in this entire debacle."
Holomisa attached invoices showing that in 2019, Mapisa-Nqakula chartered an aircraft a few times.
In one instance, she flew on a chartered plane from the Waterkloof Air Force Base to Egypt and returned via King Shaka International Airport. The trip cost R4 million. She also chartered aircraft to Togo, Ghana, Angola and Guinea.
"Mapisa-Nqakula took a solo five-day stay at the JW Marriot Essex House, which is a luxury hotel on Central Park in New York, in September 2019, which cost almost R400 000. This is much more money blown in five days that the average well-employed South African will earn in four years.
"In November 2019, Minister Mapisa-Nqakula stayed for six days, using the 50 square-meter Deluxe King Suite at the Hotel Du Collectionneur Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Her hotel bill, together with that of three departmental attaches, ran to just more than R200 000, with an Avis transport bill of almost R150 000," the letter from Holomisa read.
He asked the committee to find out if Mapisa-Nqakula took the trips while fulfilling her duties as a minister and, if so, to pass judgment on whether "it was a necessity for the minister to indulge in the extravagance and luxury that hotels such as Essex House and Hotel Du Collectionneur provide".