Communications ministers blew R3.6 million on hotels in three years

South Africa’s two most recent communications ministers spent more than R3.6 million on accommodation in the past three years.

That was revealed in a reply from the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies to a question in Parliament from DA MP Michael Bagraim.

Bagraim wanted to know how much the ministers, their deputies, and other officials in the department’s spent on catering, entertainment, and accommodation since 29 May 2019.

Acting director-general Nonkqubela Jordan-Dyani revealed that the department spent R15,345,562.86 on accommodation for all its officials in the period in question.

Of this, R3,615,001.95 was given out on accommodation for the ministers themselves.

The figure works out to around R3,353 per night had the ministers stayed in accommodation every night for each of the 1,078 days during the period.

Assuming they were away from home for only half the time, which would still be a very high guess, they would have paid an average of R6,706 per night.

Deputy ministers in the department spent R1,021,003.90 on accommodation over the same period, while other officials accounted for R10,709,557.01 in accommodation expenditure.

Catering costs amounted to R738,982.91 across the entire department, with the ministers contributing R157,644.86 of this sum.

The department also stated it spent no money on entertainment.

Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams was communications minister for roughly 26 months in the period in question, while current minister Khumbodzu Ntshavheni has served at the helm for around nine months.

It was unclear how much each of the ministers had spent on accommodation.

Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams South African Minister of Communications, Telecommunications and Postal Services
Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, communications minister from 22 November 2018 to 5 August 2021, before President Cyril Ramaphosa shuffled her to the small business development department.

Ndabeni-Abrahams previously came under fire for allegedly using thousands in taxpayers’ money to pay for an overseas holiday with her husband.

Initially, the Sunday Independent reported the pair had visited the US and Switzerland to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

The minister was also accused of outsourcing functions of her department to her husband, including interviewing candidates for positions.

Ndabeni-Abrahams said the Sunday Independent’s report was a blatant lie. “Journalists must adhere to the press code,” she said.

She also infamously responded in an interview on eNCA by stating she had gone to Geneva, not Switzerland. Geneva is the second-most populous city in Switzerland.

She later apologised for her statement, saying she erroneously referred to Switzerland instead of France. Part of the allegations against her was that they had travelled to France from Switzerland.

“I profusely apologise for this error as I meant to say that we have not been to France in that particular instance,” she stated.

Ntshavheni has so far not been scrutinised over her past accommodation expenses.

She has recently been seen travelling around South Africa extensively as part of her department’s digital terrestrial television migration drive.

MyBroadband asked the department for comment, but did not receive feedback on our queries.

Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, current Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies

Now read: Digital TV in South Africa nearly 11 years late

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Communications ministers blew R3.6 million on hotels in three years