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President Jacob Zuma is still considering what to do about Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s admission that she helped bring a Burundian woman into South Africa without the proper papers.
“The matter is still under consideration by the president,” said Presidency spokesperson Bongani Ngqulunga on Friday.
On May 22, Mapisa-Nqakula confirmed a Sunday Times report that she had helped facilitate the release of a Burundian woman arrested in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for travelling on false papers.
The woman then flew with her to Ethiopia for a government engagement, and then on to South Africa, where she lived with the Mapisa-Nqakulas.
Mapisa-Nqakula said in a statement that she did it for the woman’s safety after allegations surfaced that she was suffering abuse.
The woman, Michelle Wege, had become friends with Mapisa-Nqakula’s family during their holidays in Burundi, where the minister’s sister worked.
Wege had visited South Africa before, and wanted to come back. Her father initially gave her the go-ahead, but then, according to Mapisa-Nqakula, confiscated her passport at the airport in Burundi.
The passport contained a valid three-month visa from a previous visit to South Africa.
Lifts to university
Wege tried to get papers to leave Burundi on her own and approached the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
They could not help her, the minister said, and so on their advice, she decided to go via the DRC.
“In order to avoid the risk of alerting her father of the impending escape, she had to assume a false name at the Uvira border. She was assisted with temporary travel documents to travel into the Congo and present herself to the South African Embassy and reveal her true identity for assistance and protection.”
She was arrested in the DRC, but was released when Mapisa-Nqakula stepped in to help.
Wege allegedly used a copy of her passport and a South African visa that she had saved on a memory stick.
The minister said she believed she had done the right thing for Wege and welcomed an investigation.
But the DA believes she broke immigration laws, the Defence Act and the Executive Members Ethics Act, and wants her to be investigated.
It also emerged this month that her daughter was being driven to university in vehicles from the Youngsfield Army Base in Cape Town.
In a reply to Parliament, Mapisa-Nqakula said the lifts were a temporary arrangement as her daughter could not find alternative transport.
It was not specifically a Mercedes Benz that was allocated for the lifts, as reported in the media, she said.