Mr President, what makes Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams better than the rest of us?

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Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams
Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams

Dear Mr President,

Communications, Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams deserves to be sacked from your Cabinet.

The two months of special leave you put her on is not good enough.

I, as a law-abiding citizen, do not accept her apology either.

Here is my motivation for her to be fired.

When Cabinet ministers are sworn into office, they take the following oath and solemn affirmation, as per schedule 2(3) of the Constitution: “I, [name], swear/solemnly affirm that I will be faithful to the Republic of South Africa and will obey, respect and uphold the Constitution and all other laws of the republic.”

It’s about time that ministers and all the leaders in government understood and appreciated the meaning and importance of this oath.

They should know that even if they do not take it seriously, we, the citizens of this country, do.

As we remember Chris Hani, who was assassinated on April 10 1993, we also remember that he uttered these words in 1992: “What I fear is that the liberators emerge as elitists who drive around in Mercedes-Benzes and use the resources of the country to live in palaces and gather riches.”

Schools, colleges and universities are closed, and people are not allowed to visit one another or even attend funerals of their loved ones in large numbers.

It seems Hani’s fear has been realised after 26 years of the ANC in government, as we see many leaders of the governing party behaving like typical elites who arrogantly take advantage of their social status.

Since you declared the state of disaster last month and put us in lockdown from March 26, the majority of South Africans have largely adhered to the laws and the regulations by staying at home.

Many citizens took the responsibility to save lives by not going to work; businesses have closed; and people have sacrificed their incomes, some with the greatest anxiety and apprehension as to how they will survive during and beyond the lockdown period.

Schools, colleges and universities are closed, and people are not allowed to visit one another or even attend funerals of their loved ones in large numbers.

Separated parents who have visitation arrangements in place have, until regulations were relaxed this week, had to deal with not being able to see their children.

This situation had already caused much distress to many parents and children alike.

Churches, mosques, synagogues and temples have all shut down and heeded the call by you, Mr President, and your Cabinet to assist the country in curbing the spread of this dreaded virus and, as it were, help to flatten the curve.

Mr President, you deployed members of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), SA Police Service (SAPS) and metro police officers in various cities and towns to monitor and ensure compliance with the lockdown regulations.

Since the lockdown, several deaths, allegedly at the hands of the police, have been reported.

The first case was that of 41-year-old Sibusiso Amos of Vosloorus in Ekurhuleni, who was allegedly shot dead on his veranda.

In the early days of the lockdown, there were sad and disturbing videos and pictures circulating on social media of ordinary citizens being humiliated by soldiers. They were made to roll in the mud, frog-jump and do press-ups.

His three kids were also injured after an Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department officer and a private security guard allegedly shot him after following him home from a brawl that started at a tavern.

Other people have allegedly been shot at and assaulted in the streets.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate, the police watchdog, has been investigating cases of brutality and deaths of ordinary citizens.

I heard your plea to members of the SANDF when you addressed them on the eve of the lockdown.

You asked them to be kind to the citizens, and to not apply unnecessary force but “nudge them gently in the right direction”.

But I was surprised when, in your speech some days after these deaths were reported, you said nothing to admonish members of the SAPS.

Instead, you only expressed your condolences to the families of the elderly who had lost their lives while collecting their social grants.

The directive, it seems, must have had an ambiguous meaning – nudge them but kill them if need be?

Is that what you meant Mr President?

Perhaps this was in the same way that “concomitant action” might have been interpreted by the police in Marikana in 2012 to shoot and kill the striking mine workers?

In the early days of the lockdown, there were sad and disturbing videos and pictures circulating on social media of ordinary citizens being humiliated by soldiers.

They were made to roll in the mud, frog-jump and do press-ups.

We have been obediently locked up in our homes with our children, even afraid to venture outside to walk to the nearby spaza shops to buy bread.

We fear that the police or the soldiers will find us in the streets and shoot us.

A newly wed couple in KwaZulu-Natal was nabbed at their wedding and loaded into a police van for breaching the Disaster Management Act.

When we saw the picture of Ndabeni-Abrahams having a meal at ANC national executive committee member Mduduzi Manana’s house, pictures he posted himself, what we saw was an animal farm where some animals are more equal than others.

Minister of communications Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams and former deputy minister of Higher Education Mduduzi Manana and others photographed around his lunch table during the national lockdown

We saw the elite carrying on with their opulent lifestyles while the rest of us are under house arrest.

South Africans were enraged, rightfully so.

Police Minister Bheki Cele is on the airwaves daily, barking threats against anyone who breaks the law.

What happens when legislators break the law? Don’t they get arrested?

We waited with great anticipation for you as the president to take the necessary action against Ndabeni-Abrahams.

It cannot be that ordinary citizens are killed for not respecting the law of the land but a minister, who took an oath to “respect and uphold the Constitution of the republic and all other laws”, gets away with just an apology and a two-month special leave.

What is this? Privilege owing to her elite status? What makes her better than the rest of us?

Let us remind you, Mr President, that you also took a solemn oath to “do justice to all” and to “discharge my duties with all my strength and talents to the best of my knowledge and ability and true to the dictates of my conscience”.

If we are to believe that you are committed to doing justice to all and acting according to the dictates of your conscience, then Ndabeni-Abrahams must be relieved of her duties.

We cannot be led by people who do not respect their oaths of office and the responsibilities thereof.

Read: Ndabeni-Abrahams to answer for rule-breaking lunch with Manana

I’m afraid that this slap on the wrist is sending the wrong message to the nation – that it is okay for all of us to defy you and the authorities.

You instructed the minister to apologise to the nation.

Her non-remorseful apology, not the first from her since her appointment, has given some of us the impression that she feels entitled to our forgiveness.

We further expect Cele to arrest Ndabeni-Abrahams, Manana and their friends for breaking the law.

They should all be charged and appear in court like anyone else who has transgressed during the lockdown.

Debashis Chatterjee, in the book Leading Consciously, writes: “The credibility of a leader communicates more eloquently than his or her words. Credibility comes from character.

I define character as consistency in conduct. If a leader demonstrates such consistency in the smallest of actions, he or she is likely to demonstrate this consistency in larger actions.

Credibility of large magnitude comes from credibility in small actions.”

Our confidence, or lack thereof, Mr President, on whether you and your Cabinet will succeed in leading us through this dark period will be based on how decisively you deal with Ndabeni-Abrahams.

Otherwise, your credibility is at stake.

Yours,

Dikeledi Molatoli

Molatoli is a director at Bamboo Seeds Communications

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