Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has refuted claims that she abused state resources and interfered with the editorial independence of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).
Over the weekend, a Sunday Independent report claimed Ndabeni-Abrahams used taxpayers’ money to fund her wedding anniversary celebrations in September last year.
It claimed the Minister had taken along her husband, Thato Abrahams, on a trip to the United States (US) and Switzerland without permission from President Cyril Ramaphosa.
‘No permission required from President’
The report further alleged that Ndabeni-Abrahams had allowed Mr Abrahams to “interview candidates for positions on the various boards for which she has political oversight.”
However, the Minister denied the allegations in a statement on Monday, saying they amounted to a “malicious smear campaign.”
She said, “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.
“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.”
Minister ‘welcomes EFF’s call for investigation’
Ndabeni-Abrahams also assured the public that Mr Abrahams has not attended any government meetings, did not drive from Switzerland to France for a “shopping spree” and did not use a Mercedes-Benz S600 during the trip.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) issued a statement based on Sunday Independent‘s report and said it would file a complaint with the Public Protector.
The Minister said she welcomed the EFF’s call for an investigation and urged anyone with evidence of impropriety on her part to present it to the relevant authorities.
She added, “The Minister is fully 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 lamented that the report had caused her reputational damage and urged the media to “avoid being conduits for gossip and character assassination.”
She however did not comment on Public Works Minister Patricia De Lille’s apparently erroneous assertion that ministers are required to “motivate why you must take your spouse along” for “each and every trip.”