President Cyril Ramaphosa has cracked the whip against communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams for violating a government-imposed lockdown, putting her on special leave for two months and docking a month’s pay.
Ramaphosa’s spokesperson added that “the law should take its course” regarding the violation.
This was after Ndabeni-Abrahams was exposed for having lunch on Sunday with former deputy minister of higher education Mduduzi Manana, violating a government ban on social activity until April 16 imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19.
“President Cyril Ramaphosa has placed minister of communications and digital technologies Ms Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams on special leave for two months — one month of which will be unpaid. As to allegations that the minister violated the lockdown regulations, the law should take its course,” Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko said in a statement on Wednesday.
She said that Ramaphosa summoned Ndabeni-Abrahams on Tuesday to express his disapproval of her actions.
“The president accepted the minister’s apology for the violation but was unmoved by mitigating factors she tendered,” Diko said.
Ramaphosa is said to have taken a hard line with Ndabeni-Abrahams, who is known to be his political ally, having reprimanded her and directed her to deliver a public apology.
“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,” Ramaphosa was quoted as saying.
Manana posted the picture on Instagram of them having lunch on Sunday.
“It was great to host a former colleague and dear sister Cde Stella Ndabeni-Abrahms (minister of communications and digital technologies) on her way back from executing critical and essential services required for the effective functioning of our country during the nationwide lockdown,” he captioned the now-deleted post.
After a public furore, Manana said Ndabeni-Abrahms was picking up masks and protective gear from his home before she sat down for lunch.
In a statement issued on Tuesday after public outrage over the picture, Manana said the minister was picking up a donation from his foundation.
He said it was irresponsible for him to have posted the picture without the required context “creating the impression that it was a social lunch”.
It appears Ramaphosa did not accept this version.
The president said: “The nationwide 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.
“Minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu will act in minister Ndabeni-Abrahams’ position,” Diko said.