Former deputy minister Mduduzi Manana has said Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams was collecting COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPEs) at his home on Saturday when he “courteously” invited her to join his family for lunch.
Manana’s picture of the lunch, which he posted on Instagram but later deleted, led to speculation that Ndabeni-Abrahams may have violated the lockdown regulations.
However, in a statement on Tuesday, Manana said the Minister had earlier called him to say she was visiting students working on “COVID-19 Digital Services” in the Fourways area in Johannesburg.
Manana apologises for not giving ‘clear context’
He added, “The Minister relayed to me that the students were in need of PPEs such as masks, gloves and hand sanitisers which my Foundation has been handing over to marginalised communities.
“I then 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 us.
“She then collected the material and headed to her next assignment. She took the first batch for her Fourways students and indicated that her next visit will be tomorrow (08 April, 2020) at the Menlyn site which our team will be delivering.”
Manana apologised for sharing the pictures on Instagram without giving “clear context and thereby creating the impression that it was a social lunch.”
Meeting with Ramaphosa
Ndabeni-Abrahams has not yet publicly commented on the controversy. Earlier on Tuesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said he had summoned her to a meeting to discuss the matter.
He said, “I have asked her to come and see me, so she is going to come and see me and I am going to have a discussion with her about the impact of visuals like those on what we are trying to do.
“We are trying to instil a clear message to all our people that social distancing is important. Let us stay at home, let us not be going around with visitations and if you have to, it must be work-related.”
Opposition leaders have called on Ramaphosa to take “strong” action against Ndabeni-Abrahams.
Democratic Alliance (DA) MP and shadow communications minister Phumzile van Damme tweeted, “She is a leader and must set an example. I hope [Ramaphosa] takes strong action against her.
“While MPs (she is one) are considered an essential service, visiting Mdu Manana (he is not a public representative) does NOT constitute the discharging of a duty related to her office. She mustn’t even try it with that excuse.”