Minister of Communications Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has described a report which alleged taxpayers paid for her wedding anniversary celebrations as a “malicious smear campaign”.
The report by the Sunday Independent stated the minister and her husband enjoyed these celebrations in the US and Switzerland on taxpayers’ money.
The minister’s husband also allegedly attended official meetings and enjoyed a chauffeur-driven ride in a Mercedes-Benz S600, allocated to the minister, from Geneva to Paris to go shopping, stated the report.
“Ndabeni-Abrahams has also been accused of outsourcing departmental functions to her husband, by allowing him to interview candidates for positions,” added the report.
“Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams refutes the unfounded allegations made against her and her husband,” said her department in a statement.
“This is a malicious smear campaign that must be treated with all the contempt that it deserves.”
The original report stated the department denied President Cyril Ramaphosa’s approval – which it did not obtain – was necessary for the minister’s husband to accompany her on the trip.
Public Works Minister Patricia De Lille disputed this view, however, arguing that ministers were always required to motivate and seek presidential approval for spouses for international trips.
“At the outset, attention is drawn to the fact that the president is not required to approve the inclusion of a spouse for official international trips, as long as all is in line with the limits set in the Ministerial Handbook,” said Ndabeni-Abrahams’ department.
“The handbook allows for spouses to accompany members of the executive on two official international trips per year.”
“That the trip coincided with the minister’s anniversary is of no consequence as public funds were not used and/or misused for this purpose.”
The department said it was also malicious to claim that Mr Abrahams travelled to France on a “shopping spree”.
It said he was in Geneva at all times during this trip.
“A baseless allegation is also made that Mr Abrahams used a chauffeur-driven Mercedes Benz S600 that was allocated to the minister for the said ‘shopping spree’. This is devoid of all truth because it did not happen.”
The department went on to state that Mr Abrahams did not attend any government meetings.
“He, from time-to-time, accompanies the minister to open government events, as is the case with any other spouse. Further, Mr Abrahams has never interfered with and in the affairs of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Technologies, as alleged in the article.”
“The minister is fully well aware of the political malice at play, which has given shape to a well-orchestrated and sinister campaign to discredit her and deter her from fulfilling the department’s mandate, which includes sector transformation.”
Ndabeni-Abrahams said that anyone who can provide evidence which points to impropriety and abuse of state resources may report it to the relevant authorities.