Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was well-aware that by “smuggling” Michelle Wege into South Africa she had broken one of the very laws she as a parliamentarian had helped create, the Democratic Alliance said on Friday as two of its MPs laid criminal charges against the minister at the Cape Town Central police station.
“We truly believe that a criminal offence has taken place,” said DA member of Parliament (MP) Kobus Marais.
“We believe that she was very much aware of what she was doing and what she intended to do.”
Marais said the minister breached the Immigration Act when she illegally brought Wege into South Africa in January 2014 via the Waterkloof Air Force Base.
Prior to this, it is understood that Mapisa-Nqakula’s sister Nosithembele Mapisa had organised a fraudulent passport for Wege to leave for South Africa via the Democratic Republic of Congo, where she was arrested.
“The Minister decided – and she has confirmed that a couple of times – against the law [to] negotiate for the release of a foreigner in a foreign country and then brought her into South Africa illegally without official documentation,” said Marais.
According to Mapisa-Nqakula, she had travelled to the DRC and negotiated Wege’s release as she was saving the young woman from an abusive father. In an interview with the Sunday Times, Wege’s father Laurent denied he was abusive, linking his daughter to the minister’s late son Chumani, saying they were engaged.
He also alleged he and the minister had a business relationship which went sour.
Marais said that as Mapisa-Nqakula had confirmed she had illegally brought Wege into the country, laying the criminal charge was the best way for the National Prosecuting Authority to investigate the matter to gauge the extent to which the Minister transgressed the law and what action should be taken.
“We believe that no one from the ANC, or the Minister, or whoever, is above the law,” said Marais.
In addition to the criminal charge, the DA referred the matter to the public protector and to Parliament’s ethics committee.
“What is apparent is that it seems like there are people who believe they are above the law and I think that President [Jacob] Zuma has set the example so far,” said Marais.
“All the laws are there in support of the Constitution and we know what President Zuma has done so far in terms of the Constitutional requirements of his office and of himself.”
The ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) came out in defence of the minister on Thursday, blaming the media for being insensitive and unethical.
“While as a league we understand the sensitivities around immigration laws, we are not hearing the story of the woman whose life was subjected to abuse by her own father,” said ANCWL secretary-general Meokgo Matuba.
Matuba criticised the media for using a photograph of Mapisa-Nqakula mourning alongside her son’s grave in 2015. Matuba then went on to connect Wege’s alleged situation to that of the more than 200 Chibok schoolgirls who were abducted by terrorist organisation Boko Haram in 2014.
“We cannot turn a blind eye and pretend we are not aware of the high levels of sexual and physical abuse against women in many African countries which should be a cause for concern,” she said.
“The abduction of schoolgirls in Nigeria by Boko Haram seems to have a permanent place in the back pages of newspapers if covered at all.”
Speaking on the sensitivities surrounding Wege’s illegal entry into South Africa, DA MP Shahid Esau – who accompanied Marais – said while he recognised it was an emotional matter, this was not grounds for flouting the laws.
“One cannot use your emotions to override any laws of a country which we must protect, which we stand for, and more so as parliament, we actually make,” said Esau.
“Nobody can be above the laws.” – African News Agency (ANA)