Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has denied allegations that she tried to influence a Post Office and Postbank contract in favour of her husband.
Rapport reported that whistle-blowers have accused Ndabeni-Abrahams of putting pressure on the Post Office and Postbank to award a COVID-19 relief grant contract to her husband.
This followed a report in the Cape Times about Ndabeni-Abrahams’ husband, Thato Abrahams, allegedly playing a key role in the saga.
According to the report, he played a “vital behind-the-scenes role between Blue Label Telecoms, the SA Postbank and a former SA Post Office executive to benefit financially from the distribution of the R350 COVID-19 relief grant”.
The whistle-blower referred to a letter using the SA Post Office letterhead to National Treasury “requesting emergency procurement funds for a proposed partnership with Blue Label Telecoms to disburse the special COVID-19 social distress grant”.
The whistle-blower told Independent Media the letter was “an attempt to hoodwink the National Treasury to loot the COVID-19 relief funds”.
Abrahams and her husband have “strongly denied any wrongdoing or having played a role with Blue Label Telecoms and Postbank”.
Legal battle with Post Office chairperson
The accusations of corruption against Ndabeni-Abrahams come amidst a legal battle with SA Post Office chairperson Tshikani Colleen Makhubele.
Makhubele approached the court after Ndabeni-Abrahams allegedly instructed her to step down during a recent meeting.
Makhubele was reportedly demoted from her position without warning in a move she believes to unconstitutional and against standard procedure.
The disagreement between Ndabeni-Abrahams and Makhubele allegedly stems from the deal between Postbank and Blue Label Telecoms for the creation of a system to distribute COVID-19 relief packages.
SAPO acting CEO Refilwe Kekana has launched an investigation into the conclusion of the agreement between Postbank and Blue Label.
Specifically, the investigation surrounds the letter that was sent to the National Treasury using the name and letterhead of the Post Office, despite it not being party to the agreement.
“Our client’s belief is that there is a definite connection between that issue and the demotion,” the letter stated.
“It is also clear that the demotion is a punishment for our client’s refusal to re-engage the erstwhile acting group CEO who stepped aside under a cloud of irregular behaviour.”
Two other Post Office board members, Albert Ramoadi and Sontaga Mantlhakga, were also instructed to resign with immediate effect.
This, the City Press reported, was “after their employer, Telkom, withdrew its permission for them to serve on the board”.
As the government and the Department of Communications are a controlling shareholder in Telkom, Ndabeni-Abrahams has significant influence at Telkom.
Ndabeni-Abrahams has meanwhile appointed nine additional members to the boards of the SA Post Office and Postbank.
War with the Post Office
The City Press reported that Ndabeni-Abrahams was in conflict with the SA Post Office over the payment of the R350 COVID-19 relief grants and the appointment of a new CEO at the organisation.
Former acting SAPO CEO Ivumile Nongogo reportedly went against the board’s decision and signed a deal which linked the SA Post Office to the payment of the grants.
This was allegedly done without the minister’s backing, but landed Nongogo in serous trouble and resulted in him stepping down from his position.
SA Post Office spokesperson Bongani Diako dismissed the alleged rift between Ndabeni-Abrahams and the SAPO board as non-existent.
MyBroadband asked the SA Post Office for comment on the legal action threatened by Makhubele against Ndabeni-Abrahams, but the company said it was unable to comment on matters related to the minister.
Blue Label Telecoms investor and media relations manager Nicola White told MyBroadband that its agreement with Postbank related to the development of a national solution for relief package distribution.
“Postbank approached Blue Label to develop a solution to assist in the distribution of COVID-19 relief packages as a result of our extensive distribution capabilities throughout South Africa,” White said.
“Blue Label developed a comprehensive, national solution for Postbank’s consideration.”
“Blue Label has not been appointed by any government agency to distribute COVID-19 relief funds,” White said.