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Tensions mount as former Defence Minister seeks defense department’s legal aid for corruption trial

[Photo: News24]

Azra Hoosen | ah@radioislam.co.za
22 April 2024 | 14:00 CAT
2 min read

Former National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s request for legal representation from the Department of Defence in her corruption trial has sparked tensions within the department.

It was reported that the office of Defence Minister Thandi Modise has verified that former Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who faces corruption charges, has indeed requested state funding for her trial. Furthermore, it has been disclosed that a senior legal official processed this request without the necessary approval.

Mapisa-Nqakula faces 12 counts of corruption and money laundering related to tenders awarded during her tenure as Defence Minister.

The ministry disclosed that the request originated from the Office of the Head of Legal Services at the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). Major General Eric Mnisi took action to provide such support without first consulting the minister or the accounting officer, Secretary for Defence, Dr. Thobekile Gamede.

The Ministerial Spokesperson has called Mnisi’s handling disrespectful of executive authority.

Legal Practitioner Mpumelelo Zikalala from Zikalala Attorneys, speaking to Radio Islam, highlighted that requests for state legal funding typically aim to shield individuals employed by a department from personal liabilities arising from actions conducted in the department’s name and interests. However, in this instance, the corruption charges are not related to the department’s name or interests, indicating that it should not be the department responsible for covering the legal expenses.

“How can you be accused of defrauding in the department and the department is just going to pay for your legal bills. You should be able to deal with allegations and legal bills on your own,” he said.

Zikalala emphasized that eligibility for legal aid typically involves undergoing rigorous testing and a thorough examination of one’s assets and liabilities. This process ensures that individuals meet the necessary criteria to qualify for legal assistance.

Zikalala suggests that Mapisa-Nqakula is likely to receive her pension payout, and based on her assets as outlined in her affidavit, they exceed the threshold for legal aid eligibility. Therefore, he believes she may not qualify for legal aid and will not succeed in her application.

“This is a huge lesson for government officials, whenever you engage in transactions, make sure you are able to protect yourself. Whenever there are criminal proceedings which are against you especially from your department, just beware that the government is not going to come to your aid,” he said.

The State alleges that during her tenure as defence minister, Mapisa-Nqakula solicited and accepted R2.3 million in bribes and gratuities from Nombasa Ntsondwa-Ndhlovu, a businesswoman facing fraud charges. Ntsondwa-Ndhlovu purportedly received R210 million in defence contracts and has now become a State witness, providing information about the alleged corruption.

Mapisa-Nqakula is due to appear in court on June 4th 2024.

LISTEN to the full interview with Ml Ibrahim Daya and Mpumelelo Zikalala from Zikalala Attorney’s, here.

 

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