Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has published an apology for breaching lockdown rules put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19.
This follows the minister coming under fire for visiting a friend for lunch during the national lockdown.
Former Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training Mduduzi Manana posted a picture to Instagram of Ndabeni-Abrahams and others having a meal at his house.
This caused a backlash from South Africans who said the same rules should hold for ministers and ordinary citizens.
Manana released a statement after the backlash, saying the minister visited him to pick up personal protective equipment (PPE) for students who were working on COVID-19 digital services.
“The minister relayed to me that the students are in need of personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, and hand sanitisers,” he said.
“I then asked the minister to pass by my private residence and collect the material which she gladly did,” Manana said.
He said on the minister’s arrival his family was having lunch and he courteously invited her to join them.
“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,” he said.
Ramaphosa places Ndabeni-Abrahams on special leave
President Cyril Ramaphosa was not convinced, however. He placed Ndabeni-Abrahams on special leave for two months. One month of the leave will be unpaid.
“The President summoned the minister yesterday, 7 April 2020. The President expressed his disapproval of the minister’s actions, which undermine the requirement that all citizens stay at home and save South Africa from the spread of the coronavirus,” said the presidency.
“The President accepted the minister’s apology for the violation, but was unmoved by mitigating factors she tendered.”
The presidency said that while the minister has been placed on special leave, Minister in The Presidency Jackson Mthembu will act in Ndabeni-Abrahams’ position.
The President also directed Ndabeni-Abrahams to deliver a public apology to the nation.
“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,” 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.”
Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams apologises
The minister’s public apology is published in full below.
Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams regrets breaching Coronavirus COVID-19 lockdown rules
Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, would like to convey an apology to President Cyril Ramaphosa, the National Command Centre and the South African society at large for breaching lockdown rules put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19.
President Ramaphosa and Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams met yesterday after a photo was circulated on social media showing the Minister at the home of Mr Mduduzi Manana during the lockdown and social distancing period.
“I regret the incident and I am deeply sorry for my actions. I hope the President and South Africans will find it in their hearts to forgive me,” said Ndabeni-Abrahams.
She added: “The President has put me on a special leave with immediate effect. I undertake to abide by the conditions of the special leave.”
“I wish to use this opportunity to reiterate the President’s call for all of us to observe the lockdown rules. They are a necessary intervention to curb the spread of a virus that has devastated many nations,” said Ndabeni-Abrahams.