South Africa's parliament speaker resigns over corruption probe

South Africa's parliament speaker resigned on Wednesday, weeks after her home was raided in a graft probe likely to hurt the ruling African National Congress heading into May elections.

In a resignation letter seen by AFP, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said she decided to step down with immediate effect to uphold the integrity of parliament and focus on the investigation against her.

"Given the seriousness of the much-publicised allegations against me, I cannot continue in this role," she wrote.

Mapisa-Nqakula is accused of soliciting hefty amounts in bribes from a former military contractor during her previous tenure as defence minister. She denies the allegations.

Coming just under two months before national elections, the case has added to the woes of the ANC, which is struggling in the polls amid a weak economy and accusations of graft and mismanagement.

In power since the advent of democracy in 1994, the party is expected to see its share of the vote drop below 50 percent for the first time in May, potentially forcing it to form a coalition to remain in power.

The ANC praised Mapisa-Nqakula for protecting its reputation by stepping aside before being asked to do so.

"We value her commitment to maintaining the image of our organisation," the party said.

But in her letter, the 67-year-old insisted her decision was in "no way an indication or admission of guilt".

"I maintain my innocence and am determined to restore my good reputation," she wrote.

Alleged bribes

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