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South Africa's parliament speaker resigns over accusations of bribery

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa’s parliament speaker resigned on Wednesday and relinquished her seat in the legislature over allegations of corruption, a day after she lost a bid in court that would block her arrest.

Prosecutors last week said they intend to charge Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula with corruption, accusing her of receiving about $135 000 in bribes from a defense contractor during her three years as defense minister.

She allegedly received the payments between December 2016 and July 2019, while another bribe, amounting to $105,000, was not paid.

Mapisa-Nqakula announced in a statement that she has tendered her resignation but insisted she was innocent of the accusations against her.

“I have made this conscious decision in order to dedicate my time and focus to deal with the recently announced investigation against me by our country's law enforcement agencies,” she said. “My resignation is in no way an indication or admission of guilt regarding the allegations being levelled against me.”

Media reports in South Africa allege that on one occasion in February 2019, she received more than $15,000 and a wig at a meeting at the country’s main international airport.

Mapisa-Nqakula's party, the African National Congress, is set to fight a crucial elections this year against the backdrop of high unemployment, rising poverty and anger over various allegations of corruption against its leaders.

Recent polls suggest the party could receive less than 50% of electoral support — the lowest level since it came into power in the country’s first all-race vote at the end of apartheid in 1994.

After Mapisa-Nqakula’s announcement, it remained unclear if she would be taken into custody or surrender to authorities on her own, after the North Gauteng High Court dismissed her motion to avoid arrest.