Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s late son was romantically involved with the Burundi woman she smuggled into South Africa on an air force jet, sources said this week, and the couple had plans to marry.
Michelle Wege, 22, who the minister claimed to have rescued from an abusive father, was planning to marry Chumani, who was stabbed to death, allegedly by his friend Carlos Higuera, in Bezuidenhout Valley, Johannesburg, in October last year.
Businessman Laurent Wege, who made the startling claim this week, also lifted the lid on a business relationship with the minister gone sour, and denied Mapisa-Nqakula’s claims that she had “rescued” Michelle from being abused by him.
The father’s claims about the real reasons for Mapisa-Nqakula’s extraordinary actions contradict those she gave the Sunday Times last week.
Michelle flew to South Africa on Mapisa-Nqakula’s state jet in January 2014 after being arrested in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for trying to board a plane to South Africa on a false passport.
Mapisa-Nqakula claimed she had come to Michelle’s aid because she was being abused by her father, and because she was good friends with her children.
She said she had been en route to a meeting in Addis Ababa and had made a scheduled stop in Kinshasa to meet with officials.
She denied she had flown there specifically to fetch Michelle.
But Michelle’s father told a very different story this week.
“Michelle confirmed to me that she was engaged to the minister’s late son. And I confronted the minister about her secret marriage arrangements for my daughter to her son,” Wege said.
Wege’s claims that his daughter was in a romantic relationship with Mapisa-Nqakula’s late son are supported by four other sources, two of them close to the minister’s family.
Three sources close to Mapisa-Nqakula’s family made similar allegations to the Sunday Times last week.
“We all know that the girl came to live with the minister because she was dating her son,” a source said.
“I have it on good authority that the minister was concerned about Michelle when she was arrested in the DRC because she was dating her son,” another source said.
And the last source said it was common knowledge in Mapisa-Nqakula’s home that Michelle and Chumani were in a relationship.
Mapisa-Nqakula this week refused to answer 10 questions sent to her by the Sunday Times, but a spokesman claimed that “the story is a well calculated plan to destroy her reputation”.
An e-mail from the minister’s office to the Sunday Times yesterday said the story “is a political plot directed at the minister . .. we know who the conspirators are and know that you were chosen carefully to assist them in their plot”.
The e-mail added that the Sunday Times was throwing the allegation that her son had been dating Michelle “into the mix, knowing that he’s no longer here to answer to it”. The minister failed to mention that Michelle, who lives in her house, is still alive and can answer for herself.
I will tell the truth about how the minister and her sister are using my daughter to blackmail me
Wege told the Sunday Times that the minister had arranged with her sister, Nosithembele Mapisa, deputy ambassador to Burundi at the time, for his daughter to “run away” to the Congo, where she was arrested with fraudulent documents at Kinshasa International Airport as she was about to board a flight to South Africa.
Mapisa was suspended for her alleged role in assisting Michelle source a fake passport, but was reinstated after more than a year, allegedly following political pressure.
Mapisa-Nqakula said last Sunday that she had rescued Michelle from the Congo, where she had been detained for about 10 days, to help her “escape abuse at the hands of her father”.
But Wege this week vehemently denied that he had abused his daughter. He said Mapisa-Nqakula had other “underlying motives” when she went to the Congo to negotiate his daughter’s release into her care.
“The minister chose not to contact the Burundian government, which she has relations with, but preferred to smuggle a Burundian national out of the DRC who was supposedly accused of possession fraudulent Congolese documents,” he said.
“I came to South Africa twice while Michelle was with her and I stayed at the minister’s house. I lived with them in the house. They never brought up that issue.”
Wege said he had “a reciprocal business relationship” with Mapisa-Nqakula and that he was “shocked and surprised” by the minister’s abuse accusations.
“When the proper time and the right moment come I will tell the truth about how the minister and her sister are using my daughter to blackmail me.
“The two Mapisa sisters are very manipulative and will say and do anything to get what they want. They will twist the truth to make their wrongdoings seem right to get what they want.
“It is very disappointing that such a powerful, influential politician will use government resources and blackmail for personal gain and has no
remorse for her actions.”
Wege refused to explain the nature of his business relationship with Mapisa-Nqakula or how the minister and her sister were trying to blackmail him.
“I love my daughter dearly and have always worked hard to provide her with the best opportunities.
“Why would the minister risk her reputation and possibly her position to rescue a Burundian national she had known for seven months?”
A source close to the matter claimed Mapisa-Nqakula had introduced Wege to South African businessman and politician Jabu Ngwenya, asking him to do business with Ngwenya.
Wege said he “hosted Ngwenya in Burundi at the request of the minister”, but refused to explain the nature of the business he and Ngwenya were pursuing.
Ngwenya confirmed yesterday that he knew Wege, but said their business deal had not materialised.
“I am in the catering business and I wanted to cater for the soldiers in Burundi. Wege promised to introduce me to the president of Burundi, but it never happened when I was there.”
Ngwenya said Mapisa-Nqakula was his “chommie” but they had no business deals.