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Defence minister denies helping woman enter SA illegally

Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says she has the necessary documentation to prove that all is above board.

FILE: Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. Picture: Mia Lindeque/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has slammed reports that she helped a Burundian woman enter the country illegally, and says she has the necessary documentation to prove that all is above board.

The Sunday Times reported that Mapisa-Nqakula helped Michelle Wege escape detention in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where she was arrested for traveling with fraudulent documentation.

The paper further said the woman's fake passport was organised by the minister's sister, Nosithembele Mapisa, who worked for the Burundian embassy at the time.

In a written statement, Mapisa-Nqakula said the Sunday Times report has made deliberate attempts to twist the facts.

The minister explains Wege had a copy of her passport with a South African visa on a memory stick and through this she was able to facilitate her travel to the country on an Air Force One jet.

She said she also negotiated the woman's release from Kinshasa with her Congolese counterparts, to avoid her being deported back to Burundi.

Wege was arrested and held for 10 days for traveling on a fake Congolese passport.

The Home Affairs Department has not been immediately available for comment.

Meanwhile, Mapisa-Nqakula says reports that she abused state resources to illegally smuggle a Wege into South Africa are not only misleading, but deeply saddening to her and her family.

She's denied setting up a senior delegation of military and government officials solely for the purposes of illegally smuggling Wege.

The defence minister says she was simply helping the young woman flee from her abusive father in Burundi.

The minister has explained that the Burundian national was advised by the United Nations Refugee Agency to get a temporary passport in the Congo, and Wege decided to assume a different identity, fearing her father would find her.

Mapisa-Nqakula says she communicated with her ministerial counterparts in the DRC about Wege's release during a state visit in 2014.

Officials in the DRC became suspicious when Wege could not speak French or any other regional languages.

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