Stella’s war

Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams is allegedly at war with the SA Post Office (SAPO) over the payment of the R350 COVID-19 relief grants and the appointment of a new CEO.

This is according to a City Press report, which said the SA Post Office board does not want the organisation to be involved in the distribution of grants.

Ndabeni-Abrahams, however, is in favour of the SA Post Office paying and distributing the R350 COVID-19 relief grants.

Former acting SAPO CEO Ivumile Nongogo went against the board’s decision and signed a deal which linked the SA Post Office to the payment of the grants.

This, the City Press reported, was done with the minister’s backing, but landed Nongogo in hot water.

The SAPO board asked Nongogo why he should not be disciplined for defying the board, and soon after this, he stepped down.

Despite this, Ndabeni-Abrahams disagreed with the SA Post Office board’s recommendation of a new acting CEO and group COO.

Instead, she requested that the board ask Nongogo to continue acting as group CEO until a permanent CEO was confirmed.

SA Post Office spokesperson Bongani Diako dismissed the alleged rift between Ndabeni-Abrahams and the SAPO board as non-existent.

“All the allegations by faceless individuals are denied and dismissed with the contempt they deserve,” said Diako.

“The SAPO board has a very sound and cordial working relationship with the minister and we can confirm that the minister has provided, and continues to provide, all the necessary support to the SAPO board and executive management.”

Stella back with a bang

This is not the first time Ndabeni-Abrahams made headlines this year.

In April, the minister came under fire for flouting the COVID-19 regulations after visiting a friend for lunch during the national lockdown.

Ndabeni-Abrahams pleaded guilty to contravening the COVID-19 lockdown regulations and paid a R1,000 admission of guilt fine, which means she now has a criminal record.

She apologised for her actions, saying she hopes “the President and South Africans will find it in their hearts to forgive me”.

President Cyril Ramaphosa subsequently placed Ndabeni-Abrahams on special leave for two months, with one month’s leave being unpaid.

Shortly after her return, the City Press reported that the minister faced an unprecedented stand-off with Parliament over the appointment of new ICASA councillors.

According to the report, Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications had provided a ranked list of 10 candidates for the ICASA positions.

What is unusual is that the list, from which Ndabeni-Abrahams must now select six names, is ranked according to preference.

The ranking of this list is seen by Ndabeni-Abrahams’ associates as an attempt to force her to align her choice with the views of the parliamentary committee.

According to the report, the minister was “hot under the collar as she was also dealing with the suspicions that the ANC’s communications subcommittee and the party’s communications study group in Parliament appeared to have a different policy view from her on the roll-out of spectrum, which was handled by ICASA”.

No stranger to controversy

Ndabeni-Abrahams is no stranger to controversies and has been making headlines for years.

In January, the Sunday Independent reported the minister and her husband enjoyed a wedding anniversary in the US and Switzerland on taxpayers’ money.

Ndabeni-Abrahams has also been accused of outsourcing departmental functions to her husband by allowing him to interview candidates for positions.

She refuted the “unfounded allegations made against her and her husband”, calling it a smear campaign.

In February 2019, the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) also condemned Ndabeni-Abrahams’ decision to block an SABC journalist from covering a protest at an ANC manifesto launch.

The minister met with SANEF and took full responsibility for her actions, which undermined media freedom. She apologised unreservedly.

Now read: Stella is back with a bang

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Stella’s war