Ndabeni-Abrahams to return to office after suspension

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Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams was suspended for contravening the national lockdown rules.
Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams was suspended for contravening the national lockdown rules.

As her suspension period draws to a close today, communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams will be back in the office by midweek, according to the ministry’s spokesperson.

Ndabeni-Abrahams was placed on two months special leave by president Cyril Ramaphosa on 8 April, with a month’s salary docked. Ramaphosa’s action was prompted after a photograph surfaced on social media, showing Ndabeni-Abrahams violating the government-imposed COVID-19 lockdown rules.

Responding to ITWeb on when the minister will return to work, Mish Molakeng said on Friday: “Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams will be back in the office midweek next week.”

Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country, government introduced a nation-wide lockdown to delay the spread of the virus, as well as to give it time to prepare health facilities and interventions for the expected spike in infections. The lockdown regulations only allowed people to go to stores to get essential items, or if they are rendering essential services.

At the time, the president expressed his disapproval of the minister’s actions, saying due to allegations the minister violated the lockdown regulations, the law should take its course.

Although he accepted her apology, Ramaphosa was unmoved by mitigating factors she tendered and placed her on special leave for two months. In her absence, minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu was appointed to act in minister Ndabeni-Abrahams’s position.

Rampahosa stated: “The nation-wide 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.

“None of us – not least a member of the National Executive – should undermine our national effort to save lives in this very serious situation. I am satisfied that minister Ndabeni-Abrahams appreciates the seriousness of what she has done and that no one is above the law.”

The under-fire Ndabeni-Abrahams has since apologised for her actions via a statement as well as a video shared on Facebook. She also paid an admission of guilt fine of R1 000.

There were calls from opposition parties for tougher action, claiming the suspended minister got a slap on the wrist for breaking coronavirus rules.

However, industry bodies like the Communication Workers Union, National Association of Manufacturers of Electronic Components and ICT SMME Chamber came out in support of the embattled minister.

Amid the suspension, Ndabeni-Abrahams has been the target of fake social media posts, which include a video purporting her to be celebrating the arrival of a new car during the lockdown period.

The minister has taken to her Twitter page to quell the fake news about her.

On the fake video, she tweeted: “For the record, I would like to point out that this video was shot a year ago after elections. It is unfortunate that some media houses have published this video without verifying the facts around it. I also would like to draw attention to the fact that car dealerships are closed during the lockdown period.

“I am at home in line with the lockdown regulations, which require citizens to remain at home and observe social distancing rules.

“It is malicious and mischievous to portray me as a person with no remorse and insensitively displays opulence at the face of the poor.”

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