President Cyril Ramaphosa has placed Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams on special leave for two months – one month of which will be unpaid, after she violated government’s lockdown regulations.
The suspension of Ndabeni-Abrahams follows a wave of backlash on social media after pictures of her enjoying a family lunch at the stylishly luxurious and expensive home of former Higher Education and Training Deputy Minister, Mduduzi Manana, surfaced on Instagram while the entire country observed stringent lockdown regulations, including social distancing.
Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko said Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu will be acting in Ndabeni-Abrahams’s position.
This is one of the clearest signals that Ramaphosa, who has been cautious to maintain the complex balance between contending ANC factions since succeeding former President Jacob Zuma, has taken a decision to act firm against errant Cabinet ministers and corrupt government officials.
Diko said Ramaphosa summoned the Communications Minister to the Union Buildings on Tuesday 07 April where he expressed his disapproval of the Minister’s actions, which he said undermined the requirement that all citizens stay at home and save South Africa from the spread of the coronavirus.
He also reprimanded Ndabeni-Abrahams and instructed her to deliver a public apology to the nation following her indiscretions.
“The nation-wide lockdown calls for absolute compliance on the part of all South Africans. Members of the National Executive carry a special responsibility in setting an example to South Africans, who are having to make great sacrifices,” said Ramaphosa.
“None of us – not least a member of the National Executive – should undermine our national effort to save lives in this very serious situation. I am satisfied that Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams appreciates the seriousness of what she has done and that no-one is above the law.”
Manana explained on Tuesday that Ndabeni-Abrahams was not at his home for a social visit and was there to collect PP equipment as she was in Fourways and sought the equipment to distribute to learners who needed it.
“On her arrival, my family was having lunch and I courteously invited her to join us. She then collected the material and headed to her next assignment. She took the first batch for the Fourways students and indicated that the next visit will be tomorrow (April 8) at the Menlyn site which our team will be delivering,” said Manana.
“In hindsight, it was irresponsible to post a picture without a clear context and thereby creating the impression that it was a social lunch. For this I profusely apologise.”