Category Archives: Politics

‘Nonsensical:’ EFF slams Ndabeni-Abrahams’ 2-month leave, calls for her removal

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has termed Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams’ two-month special leave for breaching lockdown regulations as “nonsensical.”

In a statement on Wednesday, the party also called for her removal from the Cabinet and for the SA Police Service to take action against her.

It said, “The two-month censure imposed on the Minister for breaching the lockdown is nonsensical and suggests that Ministers and Members of the Executive must be treated as if they are above the law.”

‘Slap on the wrist’

Ramaphosa announced the censure earlier on Wednesday after meeting Ndabeni-Abrahams on Tuesday.

He said he had accepted her apology but had been “unmoved by mitigating factors she tendered,” and directed her to issue a public apology.

The President also said the law must take its course regarding allegations that the Minister had violated the lockdown regulations. He added that one month of the special leave will be unpaid.

However, the EFF said, “To lose a month’s worth of salary and be put on leave is a slap on the wrist for a contravention that mocks our collective effort as a nation.”

‘SAPS should take action’

The party added, “We call on the Minister of Police and SAPS to take the same action they have done with ordinary citizens who have violated the regulations.”

The controversy stems from a picture former deputy minister Mduduzi Manana shared on social media on Saturday. It showed Ndabeni-Abrahams having lunch with him and his family at his residence.

In a statement on Tuesday, Manana said the Minister was at his residence to collect personal protective equipment for students working on COVID-19 digital services.

The EFF however called for an investigation into Manana’s claim, saying it was “concerning” that he had “summoned” a Minister to his home to collect donations while there are “structures and mechanism” to coordinate such donations.

The EFF added, “Ministers must never meet self-purported philanthropists in their homes, as these unofficial meetings lack transparency and are a dark road towards corruption.

“Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams must be removed from the Cabinet if the integrity of the national lockdown is to be maintained and the rule of law is to be taken seriously.”

The Minister has issued a public apology and appealed to Ramaphosa and South Africans to forgive her for her actions.

WATCH: ‘I am deeply sorry for my actions’ – Ndabeni-Abrahams

Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has publicly apologised for having lunch at the home of former deputy minister Mduduzi Manana during the ongoing lockdown period.

The Minister issued a statement as well as a video on Wednesday conveying her apology as directed by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

She said, “I regret the incident and I am deeply sorry for my actions. I hope the President and South Africans will find it in their hearts to forgive me.”

‘I’ll abide by special leave’

Ndabeni-Abrahams added, “The President has put me on a special leave with immediate effect. I undertake to abide by the conditions of the special leave.

“I take this opportunity to reiterate the President’s call for all of us to observe the lockdown rules. They are a necessary intervention to curb the spread of a virus that has devastated many nations.”

In a statement earlier on Wednesday, Ramaphosa announced that he had placed Ndabeni-Abrahams on a two-month special leave, one of which will be unpaid.

He said he had accepted the Minister’s apology during their meeting on Tuesday, but had been “unmoved by mitigating factors she tendered.”

‘No one is above the law’

Ramaphosa said, “The nationwide lockdown calls for absolute compliance on the part of all South Africans.

“Members of the National Executive carry a special responsibility in setting an example to South Africans, who are having to make great sacrifices.

“None of us – not least a member of the National Executive – should undermine our national effort to save lives in this very serious situation.

“I am satisfied that Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams appreciates the seriousness of what she has done and that no one is above the law.”

The President also said the law should take its course regarding allegations that Ndabeni-Abrahams had violated the lockdown regulations.

On Tuesday, Manana attempted to defuse the controversy by claiming in a statement that Ndabeni-Abrahams was collecting personal protective equipment (PPE) at his home.

However, it appears this explanation failed to persuade Ramaphosa, who was facing pressure from opposition leaders and sections of the public to take strong action against the Minister.

Ramaphosa places Ndabeni-Abrahams on 2-month special leave, 1 unpaid

President Cyril Ramaphosa has placed Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams on a two-month special leave, one of which will be unpaid.

In a statement on Wednesday, Ramaphosa said the law should take its course regarding allegations that Ndabeni-Abrahams had violated lockdown regulations.

A picture shared on social media on Saturday by former deputy minister Mduduzi Manana showed Ndabeni-Abrahams having lunch with Manana and his family at his private residence.

Public apology to the nation

This sparked speculation that the Minister may have violated lockdown regulations, which prohibit people from leaving their homes unless it is for essential purposes.

Manana released a statement on Tuesday saying Ndabeni-Abrahams was collecting personal protective equipment (PPEs) for students working on COVID-19 digital services.

Ramaphosa summoned the Minister on Tuesday, after which he accepted her apology “but was unmoved by mitigating factors she tendered.”

He also reprimanded Ndabeni-Abrahams and directed her to issue a public apology to the nation on the matter.

‘No one is above the law’

Ramaphosa said, “The nationwide lockdown calls for absolute compliance on the part of all South Africans. Members of the National Executive carry a special responsibility in setting an example to South Africans, who are having to make great sacrifices.

“None of us – not least a member of the National Executive – should undermine our national effort to save lives in this very serious situation.

“I am satisfied that Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams appreciates the seriousness of what she has done and that no one is above the law.”

Minister in The Presidency Jackson Mthembu will act in Ndabeni-Abrahams’ position for the two-month period.

Ndabeni-Abrahams had not yet issued her public apology at the time of publishing this article.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) had earlier called on Ramaphosa to lay a criminal complaint against the Minister and to remove her from the Cabinet.

Manana says Ndabeni-Abrahams was collecting COVID-19 PPEs from his home

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.”

Ramaphosa summons Ndabeni-Abrahams amid lockdown ‘violation’ controversy

President Cyril Ramaphosa has summoned Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams amid controversy surrounding her visit to former deputy minister Mduduzi Manana’s home over the weekend.

Speaking to journalists in Johannesburg on Tuesday, Ramaphosa said he had seen the pictures showing Ndabeni-Abrahams having a meal with Manana and other individuals.

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.”

‘Social distancing is important’

The President added, “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.”

Manana posted the images on Instagram over the weekend, but deleted them soon afterwards. Nevertheless, screenshots emerged on Twitter on Monday.

He captioned the pictures, “It was great to host a former colleague and dear sister comrade Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams on her way back from executing critical and services required for the effective functioning of our country during the nationwide lockdown.”

Opposition leaders soon accused Ndabeni-Abrahams of violating the COVID-19 lockdown regulations.

Ndabeni-Abrahams ‘must set an example’

Democratic Alliance (DA) MP and shadow communications minister Phumzile van Damme tweeted, “[Ndabeni-Abrahams] 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.”

One South Africa Movement leader Mmusi Maimane added, “Eita @CyrilRamaphosa, we can’t have favourites doing as they please. This virus does not care who is a minister and who is not.

“How is it that some see it fit to violate lockdown regulations to have dinner with their exiled colleagues? Can you ask them at close range?”

In a leaked letter to African National Congress (ANC) National Executive Committee (NEC) members, ANC Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte also called for “sensitivity” on social media. Manana is an NEC member.

Duarte wrote, “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. We must be seen to lead in both the letter and spirit of the national lockdown.”

EFF: Rupert’s R1b COVID-19 pledge ‘a sophisticated loan shark scheme’

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has slammed billionaire Johann Rupert for reportedly administering his R1 billion COVID-19 donation in the form of loans for small, medium and micro-sized enterprises (SMMEs).

In a statement on Tuesday, the party said this would “entrap” the SMMEs applying for funding into “un-repayable loans.”

It said, “Rupert is using one of his subsidiaries, Business Partners, a risk finance company, to set up a sophisticated loan shark scheme that will indebt [sic] SMMEs and ensure he secures long-term profits from a national disaster.”

‘Government must administer all donations’

The EFF said the government must administer all donations made by private individuals and entities and that these donations “should not come with any conditions.”

It added, “We call on government to disclose the exact details of all the pledges and donations made by the private sector, indicating what they are for and how they are going to be used to combat the rapid spread of coronavirus and the economic devastation of our people.

“We call on our SMMEs to not apply for any loan from the Rupert-controlled Business Partners because it will leave them in huge debts.”

According to its website, Business Partners was established by Anton Rupert, Johann Rupert’s father, in 1981. It was known as the Small Business Development Corporation Ltd (SBDC) at the time.

Donation ‘will not go back to Rupert family’

In an interview with CNBC Africa on Tuesday, Business Partners managing director Ben Bierman reiterated that the R1 billion donation will not go back to the Rupert family.

“It’s important to note that the money made by the Rupert family is a donation. None of this capital will ever flow back to the Rupert family again,” he said.

Biernan added that Business Partners will establish an online platform by the end of this week. The platform will outline eligibility criteria for SMMEs in need of funding.

He said smaller businesses affected by COVID-19 will get grants, which means they will not be obligated to pay them back.

Biernan added, “There will also be a loan component for bigger businesses to try and see if that can be repaid in the future.

“The initial interest-free period [with] no repayment obligations for those businesses will be approximately for 12 months, after which we hope that the major impact of the virus would have subsided.”

Malema slams Mkhize for saying people can walk dogs during lockdown

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema has taken a dim view of Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize’s comments that people will be allowed to walk their dogs during the 21-day nationwide lockdown.

Mkhize made the comments during an interview with Dan Moyane on eNCA on Wednesday morning.

He said, “You can walk, you can walk with your dog, you can jog, but do it with good distance between you [and the next person] so that you don’t create a sense of infection that can spread. But we really are saying that it’s the mixing of large numbers of people that’s the problem.”

‘Don’t try us, please’

However, Malema tweeted his disagreement a few hours later and seemingly suggested that the idea of walking dogs is “rubbish.”

He wrote, “I hear some people will be allowed to walk dogs; just don’t try us, please. We support the government’s intervention, but rubbish won’t be tolerated.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the lockdown on Monday as a way of curbing the spread of coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19. It will start at midnight on Thursday, 26 March until midnight on Thursday, 16 April.

During his address to the nation, he said, “Individuals will not be allowed to leave their homes except under strictly controlled circumstances, such as to seek medical care, buy food, medicine and other supplies or collect a social grant.”

‘Reducing mixing of people’

The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) has been deployed to assist the SA Police Service (SAPS) in enforcing the lockdown.

In another interview with SABC News, Mkhize elaborated further on what the lockdown seeks to achieve.

“It’s the mixing of people that we want to limit. The lockdown will stop the trains and taxis and in that way, the mixing of people who could have the infection is reduced so that for the duration of the three weeks, fewer people would get infected,” he explained.

Speaking to Eusebius McKaiser on Radio 702, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula also said trains, taxis and e-hailing services will be suspended.

He said, “A lockdown is a lockdown; they will not be operating. There will be special catering for public transport.

“We are looking at allocating time for the operation of taxis in the morning peak and in the afternoon. Trains, we are looking at [none] at all.”

DA to obtain interdict if NEHAWU defies gatherings ban in wage protest

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has vowed to obtain a court interdict if the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) doesn’t back down from its planned strike action.

NEHAWU has threatened to mobilise its members to protest on 30 March against the government’s proposal to renegotiate a 2018 wage agreement.

On Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a ban on gatherings of more than 100 people to help curb the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

‘Groups of 99.9 people’

However, NEHAWU’s General Secretary Zola Saphetha told News24 on Wednesday that the protest march will go ahead.

“Truth of the matter is, we are going to march on the 30 March to Pretoria. We can maybe have 99.9 people in groups walking apart from each other and this will happen with our 20,000 members,” Sapetha said.

DA’s shadow minister for public service and administration, Dr Leon Schreiber, however said in a statement that the march would put the lives of South Africans at risk.

He said, “The DA will write to the Minister of Public Service and Administration, Senzo Mchunu, calling on him to instruct NEHAWU to cancel this march.”

‘Urgent court interdict’

“If the government fails to avert this potential disaster, the DA will obtain an urgent interdict against NEHAWU’s actions to protect the health and safety of thousands of public servants and other South Africans from exposure to the coronavirus,” Schreiber added.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni first signalled the government’s intention to renegotiate the wage agreement in the Budget he presented in February.

According to the agreement, workers were expecting increases of between 5.5% and 4.5% from 1 April.

However, the government reportedly tabled an increase of consumer price inflation (CPI) plus 0.5% for level one employees at the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council this week. Some employees, such as level 12, would only get CPI increases.

The unions, including labour federation COSATU and the Public Servants Association, said they rejected these proposals outright.

The government proposes to reduce the wage bill by R37.8 billion in the 2020/2021 financial year, R54.9 billion in 2021/2022 and R67.5 billion in 2022/2023.

COVID-19: EFF proposes R3,500 once-off grant for workers earning below R15,000

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has proposed a raft of measures to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in South Africa.

In a statement issued late on Wednesday, the party said the government must pay all workers earning below R15,000 a month a once-off R3,500 grant “for food and hygiene essentials.”

It urged the government to “engage” business, and the financial sector in particular, to offer financial relief to workers.

‘Suspend home loan repayments’

The EFF said, “All banks must suspend payments for home loans for four months and restructure terms of payments for home loans. All home loan payments that were made on the 15th and [the] ones scheduled for the 25th of March should be reversed.

“All banks must suspend repayment of personal loans, credit cards and overdrafts for a period of four months. All banks must suspend repayment of car loans for four months.

“Lastly, all service providers such as MultiChoice, Vodacom, MTN and others should suspend debit orders for four months.”

The party also said the government should use “surpluses” from the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), Compensation Fund and Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) to fund companies to enable them to pay salaries and liabilities.

Proposals mirror those by DA

Small businesses that employ one to 50 employees should also get funding from the government to avoid retrenchments, the EFF said.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Democratic Alliance (DA) made similar proposals in a statement issued by its shadow minister of finance, Geordin Hill-Lewis.

The DA called for “a nationwide four-month payment holiday on loans for small and medium businesses, in particular, property loans, business loans, and vehicle loans.”

Other proposals it made include a pause or reduction in rental payments and a rates relief for local businesses by local governments that can afford it.

The DA added, “The Department of Labour could pause payments for UIF and Worker’s Compensation Fund by small businesses for four months, without affecting workers’ cover under these funds.

“To protect businesses from bankruptcy, we propose that business rescue proceedings should receive an automatic three month extension beyond the three months provided for in S132 of the Companies Act.”

During his address to the nation on Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the Cabinet is finalising a stimulus package for the economy to mitigate the impact of coronavirus.

At a media briefing after meeting political parties in Parliament on Wednesday, Ramaphosa also appealed to the government’s social partners, including business, labour and civil society groups, to be involved.

Malema to private hospitals: Avoid nationalisation by cooperating with govt on COVID-19

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema has urged South Africa’s private hospitals to avoid nationalisation by cooperating with the government’s efforts to address the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Malema made the comments while speaking at a media briefing following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s consultation with political parties represented in Parliament in Cape Town on Wednesday.

He said, “We call upon private hospitals, that the only way to avoid nationalisation of those private hospitals is by fully cooperating with the Minister of Health when he needs beds for our sick people.”

John Steenhuisen’s call to big business

Malema also urged businesses selling hygiene items such as sanitisers, gloves and face masks not to “maximise profit out of this crisis.”

“As the EFF, we fully support the initiative of government and we call upon all South Africans to listen to the leadership of our government and follow exactly as we are told,” Malema added.

Democratic Alliance (DA) interim leader John Steenhuisen also expressed his party’s support for the government’s interventions. He urged South Africans to stop panic buying of sanitary and food supplies.

Steenhuisen added, “I would like to make an appeal to the private sector and big business in particular to get involved in the effort. This is something that is going to require the best efforts of all South Africans to come together and fight this virus and its effects on our economy.”

‘Unprecedented moment’ – Ramaphosa

Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald said it is South Africans who, by following all the government’s guidelines correctly, would prevent an escalation from a state of national disaster to a state of emergency.

For his part, President Ramaphosa appreciated the commitment of all the parties to unite and work together to address the coronavirus crisis.

He said, “We all agreed that this is an unprecedented moment. We have not seen anything as serious as this confronting the entire nation.

“We agreed that regardless of our political persuasions [and] our political differences, all of us share a common desire to keep our people safe, but also to mitigate the impact of this virus on our economy.”

Ramaphosa also appealed to members of the public to refrain from making excessive purchases at retail stores.

“It is important to understand that the supply of goods remains continuous in South Africa. Supply chains remain intact and there is no need for stockpiling of any items,” he said.

As of Wednesday morning, there were 116 confirmed cases of coronavirus in South Africa. Of these, a total of 15 were locally transmitted.

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