Minister of Mis-communications: Four times Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams got her lines crossed

2020-04-08 05:26

Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams found herself in the spotlight again on Tuesday after a social media post went viral allegedly showing her having lunch at the home of former deputy minister of higher education, Mduduzi Manana, during the national lockdown. 

According to the lockdown regulations, only essential workers are allowed to move around, and citizens can only leave their homes to get essentials like food or medical assistance. The lockdown is expected to last until 16 April. 

The photograph, which appeared to come from Manana's Instagram page, showed the two politicians and several other people having a meal during the lockdown.

The caption reads: "It was great to host a former colleague and dear sister Cde Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams [minister of communications and digital technologies] on her way back from executing critical and essential services required for the effective functioning of our country during the nationwide lockdown."

The post has since been removed. 

READ: Ndabeni-Abrahams lockdown picture: It was not social lunch visit, was for essential business - Manana

On Tuesday, Manana tried to set the record straight. In a statement, he said that Ndabeni-Abrahams had contacted him to assist students in need of personal protective gear. He runs the Mduduzi Manana Foundation, which had been handing out the equipment to communities in need.

He said that, when Ndabeni-Abrahams arrived, his family had been having lunch. 

"She then collected the material and headed to her next assignment," Manana said. 

Following the debate around the picture, President Cyril Ramaphosa told journalists at the national water command centre at Rand Water in Johannesburg that he had asked Ndabeni-Abrahams to come talk to him about the impact the visuals had. 

'I meant France'

This was not the first time this year the minister was in hot water.

Earlier this year, Ndabeni-Abrahams had to explain herself after she said that she went to Geneva, not Switzerland, with her husband in a televised interview over a controversial trip. 

"You flew your husband on taxpayers' money all the way to Switzerland in order to celebrate the anniversary of your wedding. Is that true?" asked eNCA reporter Xoli Mngambi. 

Ndabeni-Abrahams replied testily: "What do you think, Xoli? Do you think I would take my husband to a wedding anniversary in Switzerland? 

"I had said on this matter as I issued a statement that … meaning Xoli … the statement that you read, I said I've never been in Switzerland, my husband has never been to Switzerland, we went to Geneva and New York."

READ: Geneva gaffe: 'I meant France,' explains Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams after merciless trolling

She later issued a statement apologising for her mistake, saying that she had meant to say France.

"A question was asked relating to a September 2019 trip to Geneva, Switzerland. When the question was raised, I erroneously referred to Switzerland instead of France, responding to the effect that my husband and I had not been to Switzerland, but Geneva," she said. 

In January, Ndabeni-Abrahams decried a report in the Sunday Independent alleging she had taken her husband, Thato Abrahams, to the US and Switzerland at the expense of taxpayers' money to fund her wedding celebrations.

She had reportedly done this without permission from Ramaphosa.

'Just shut up' 

It seems that the minister also had a few run-ins in 2019. 

At the beginning of last year, cellular provider Vodacom got a tongue lashing from Ndabeni-Abrahams when she dismissed the company's claim that it had settled a long running claim against it. 

After Vodacom said it had reached a decision on the "reasonable compensation" to pay Kenneth Makate, the inventor of its hugely lucrative Please Call Me service, the minister hit out. 

READ: Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams slams Vodacom for Kenneth Makate please call me settlement

She tweeted: "Just shut up Vodacom and do the right thing. 'Talk to Makate' instead of this poor PR. Don’t talk to us until you have reached a settlement with him and his team."

She later apologised – if the tone of her message "offends or unsettles". However, she said she stood by her tweet.

Altercation with journalists 

There were more apologies in February of 2019 from the minister after she had an altercation with journalists while they were covering protest action during the ANC provincial rally in Mount Frere in the Eastern Cape. 

According to the Citizen, a group of people wearing ANC regalia disrupted the party's treasurer Paul Mashatile during his speech at the election manifesto launch. The group sang struggle songs while holding up placards about poor service delivery.

The SABC reported that Ndabeni-Abrahams approached its video journalist, who was trying to take visuals of the protesters.

The minister allegedly put her hands in front of the camera, telling the journalist not to take footage.

Ndabeni-Abrahams was quoted as saying: "Why would you give coverage to people who are out of order?"

She later met with the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) to discuss the matter. 

READ: Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams meets Sanef,  expresses remorse for blocking journalists during ANC event

 - Compiled by Vanessa Banton

Read more on:    stella ndabeni-abrahams  |  politics  |  lockdown  |  media
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