Johannesburg – Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams’s Sunday lunch rendezvous at the home of former higher education deputy minister Mduduzi Manana has landed her in hot water and ignited calls for her to be axed from the Cabinet.
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday said he had called for a meeting with Ndabeni-Abrahams to discuss the embarrassing incident for the government as millions abide by the strict lockdown regulations.
Speaking while visiting the Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Covid-19 command centre at Rand Water in Joburg on Tuesday afternoon, Ramaphosa said he had seen the image of her. The president said he had told the minister to “come to see me” and will discuss his concerns with her.
“I will have a discussion with her about the impact of such visuals on the lockdown regulations,” he said.
Ramaphosa said everyone must stay home and follow lockdown regulations. He said he was also adhering to the regulations and was going straight home after visiting the command centre.
The luncheon photograph prompted ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte to warn that the governing party’s leaders must be seen to lead in both the letter and spirit of the national lockdown.
”Let us lead by example and demonstrate political consciousness and sensitivity in our conduct and communication, especially on social media. Photos of opulent living and consumption of non-essential substances should be avoided,” Duarte said in a message to ANC national executive committee members, who included Manana.
She said the Covid-19 fight has required drastic measures that have resulted in hardships for all and especially the working-class and poor.
Social media users also took to Twitter to slam Ndabeni-Abrahams for violating regulations.
The president implemented the 21-day lockdown and accompanied it with a string of regulations that limited people’s movements and urged them to only leave their homes for essential services.
Ndabeni-Abrahams was part of Ramaphosa’s Covid-19 response team as part of her duties as a Cabinet member. She has been criticised for not setting an example and acting against the national interest.
Social media users complained that they had to sacrifice their own family gatherings and meetings to adhere to regulations while Ndabeni-Abrahams seemingly flouted the rules. Some went as far as calling for her to be fired.
In an Instagram post shared on Sunday, that has since been removed, Manana said the minister was in the Fourways area to provide “critical and essential services” related to the lockdown before popping in to visit.
The picture was captioned: “It was great to host a former colleague and dear sister Cde Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams on her way back from executing critical and essential services required for the effective functioning of our country during the nationwide lockdown.”
In a statement by his foundation on Tuesday afternoon, Manana appeared to contradict himself when he said that on Sunday he had received a call from Ndabeni-Abrahams, who told him that she was in the Fourways area, visiting a site where a number of students were working on Covid-19 digital services.
“The minister relayed to me that the students are in need of personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves and hand sanitisers which my foundation has been handing over to marginalised communities. I asked the minister to pass by my private residence and collect the material, which she gladly did. On her arrival, my family was having lunch and I courteously invited her to join in.”
He said in hindsight it was irresponsible to post the snap on Instagram without a clear context. Political analyst Lukhona Mnguni said in response to Manana’s statement: “Mduduzi Manana has now finally managed to cook up a narrative he didn’t have when he spoke to Jacaranda FM. They really think we are foolish. But they have every right to, we tend to put them on a pedestal.”
Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko did not respond to queries about whether the meeting between Ramaphosa and Ndabeni-Abrahams had taken place, or the outcomes.
By Samkelo Mtshali