Mapisa-Nqakula's last act: Asks Ramaphosa to reduce soldiers deployed in SA from 25,000 to 10,000

Amanda Khoza Presidency reporter
Sacked defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told MPs on Thursday evening that she had written to President Cyril Ramaphosa asking to reduce the number of soldiers on the ground in SA from 25,000 to 10,000.
Sacked defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told MPs on Thursday evening that she had written to President Cyril Ramaphosa asking to reduce the number of soldiers on the ground in SA from 25,000 to 10,000.
Image: GCIS

In what would ultimately be her final act as the defence and military veterans minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula on Thursday evening told MPs she had written to President Cyril Ramaphosa asking him to reduce the number of soldiers on the ground from 25,000 to 10,000.

“Papers are on the way to the president, to you and parliament, to reduce the number ... so that the focus of the troops is purely on the provinces which are still calm but volatile,” said Mapisa-Nqakula.

She was referring to KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, where civil unrest took place and led to the killing of more than 300 people and damage to infrastructure worth billions of rand three weeks ago.  

She said soldiers will also remain in the Western Cape, which has been plagued by taxi violence.

“That we have deployed troops to Mozambique has not, at all, compromised our deployment internally,” said the minister.

But this would be her last act as minister. Just a few hours later, Ramaphosa removed her from his cabinet entirely as part of sweeping changes to the security cluster.

Earlier, Mapisa-Nqakula told MPs that she was late for the joint standing committee meeting because she was locked in another meeting - presumably with Ramaphosa - just hours before he made his cabinet changes.

Mapisa-Nqakula, along with other security cluster ministers, were in the firing line after they were caught off-guard by the riots and looting that took place.

The president's hand was seemingly forced into the cabinet changes after ministers in the security cluster publicly pointed fingers at each other over the unrest, looting and public violence.

The president labelled the mayhem as an insurrection, while Mapisa-Nqakula publicly contradicted him. State security minister Ayanda Dlodlo and police minister Bheki Cele also publicly clashed over an intelligence report related to the looting and riots.

Ramaphosa last night sacked Mapisa-Nqakula from the defence portfolio, saying she would be deployed to a new position, which has not been announced. She has been replaced by National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise.

During the meeting, Mapisa-Nqakula, who presumably knew that she would not be coming back as the defence minister, kept her cool as she answered MPs' questions on the situation in Mozambique.

Committee chair Cyril Xaba told MPs that the special meeting was called to discuss a letter submitted to the National Assembly by Ramaphosa that made available 1,495 members of the South Africans National Defence Force in Mozambique at a cost of nearly R1bn.

Xaba said the soldiers were sent as part of a Southern African Development Community mission for three months.

Chief of joint operations Lt-Gen Siphiwe Sangweni told MPs that terrorist group Al Sunnah wa Jama’ah (ASWJ) had been perpetrating acts of terrorism and violent extremism in the north east of the country, Cabo Delgado province, since 2017.

“The employment for an initial period of 90 days and the number of personnel and the appreciated is 1,495 with an associated financial cost totalling R984,368,057,” said Sangweni.

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