South African President Cyril Ramaphosa gestures while standing next to...

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa gestures while standing next to Speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, left, ahead of his state of the nation address at the City Hall in Cape Town on Feb. 8, 2024. A special investigations unit searched the home of South Africa's Speaker of Parliament on Tuesday March 19, 2024 and seized evidence as part of a probe into accusations that she accepted bribes in her previous role as defense minister. Credit: AP/Rodger Bosch

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — A special investigations unit in South Africa searched the home of the Speaker of Parliament for more than five hours Tuesday and seized evidence as part of a probe into accusations that she accepted bribes in her previous role as defense minister.

The search and seizure operation at the Johannesburg home of Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who is a veteran lawmaker with the ruling African National Congress party, was confirmed in a statement from Parliament.

The Speaker denied any wrongdoing and “reaffirms she has nothing to hide,” the statement said. She cooperated with the investigators, Parliament said.

The investigation of Mapisa-Nqakula, 67, was made public this month by a newspaper, which said she was suspected of receiving at least $120,000 in bribes from a defense contractor between 2016 and 2019. The money was delivered to her in cash in gift bags, according to The Sunday Times newspaper.

A spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority said the search operation was carried out by its investigating directorate.

Mapisa-Nqakula was meant to be presiding over a session in Parliament on Tuesday where lawmakers put questions to President Cyril Ramaphosa. She did not appear and the deputy speaker oversaw the questions.

The opposition Democratic Alliance party called for her to step down because “she cannot be entrusted with this high office.”

Mapisa-Nqakula was previously accused of taking bribes when she was defense minister, but a parliamentary investigation was dropped around the time she became Speaker in 2021.

Mapisa-Nqakula is another senior ANC figure to be accused of corruption during the leadership of former South African President Jacob Zuma, who was in charge of Africa's most advanced country from 2009 to 2018 before he was forced to step down amid a series of graft allegations. He is on trial for corruption relating to alleged offenses before he was president.

A commission of inquiry into corruption during Zuma's leadership heard extensive evidence of bribery of government officials by private companies in return for state contracts, yet hardly anyone has been prosecuted and the ANC has cleared some of those implicated to stand again as candidates in a national election on May 29.

The ANC's reputation has been badly damaged by the corruption scandals, though, and the party is facing the prospect of losing its majority in May. Analysts predict that a decline in support for the ANC will result in South Africa having a coalition government for the first time.

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