Sunday Independent article is devoid of truth

The Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Ms Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams notes with extreme disappointment, an article published on Sunday, 19 January 2020 in the Sunday Independent titled, “Taxpayers foot bill for Minister’s anniversary”.

Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams refutes the unfounded allegations made against her and her husband, Mr Thato Abrahams, pointing to the abuse of power, state resources and interfering with the public broadcaster’s editorial independence. This is a malicious smear campaign that must be treated with all the contempt that it deserves.

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. Further, the handbook allows for spouses to accompany members of the executive on two official international trips per year. Therefore, both policy and process were not flouted in Mr Abrahams accompanying the Minister to Geneva and New York.

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. It is also malicious to claim that Mr Abrahams travelled to France on a ‘shopping spree’ utilising public funds as his passport, which is available for scrutiny, clearly reveals that he was in Geneva at all times during this trip. A baseless allegation is also made that Mr Abrahams used a ‘chauffeur driven Mercedes Benz S600 that was allocated to the minister’ for the said ‘shopping spree’. This is devoid of all truth because it did not happen. It is therefore very opportunistic for the journalist to make this fabrication the centre of his article. There is no doubt that this was done with the aim of casting aspersions on the integrity of Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams and cause damage to her character.

The Minister further assures the public that Mr Abrahams has not attended any government meetings and as mentioned in the written reply to the journalist. He, from time-to-time, accompanies the Minister to open government events, as is the case with any other spouse. Further, Mr Abrahams has never interfered with and in the affairs of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Technologies, as alleged in the article. This and other spurious claims made in the article, including the opportunistic EFF statement, are disingenuous and misleading.

Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams also denies and dismisses the baseless assertion that she ‘lured’ SABC to cover the wedding celebration of her spokesperson under the guise of providing ‘a breaking story.’ The Minister was in effect unaware that SABC News would be in attendance at the wedding. However, when approached for comment on the SABC bailout, she duly gave a response.

The Minister is fully well 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. The Minister therefore welcomes EFF’s call for investigation and believes that it will assist in educating the party on how issues of public service in relation to ministerial duties and responsibilities are conducted.

Ndabeni-Abrahams further calls on anyone, including the journalist who authored the article, to provide evidence that point to impropriety and abuse of state resources on her part to report it to the relevant authorities, including the alleged meetings in which her husband sat in and the discussions thereof.

The article, with its malicious intent, has caused unnecessary reputational damage to the Minister and as such the media is urged to guard against being conduits for gossip and character assassination, but at all times exercise due care by adhering to the ethics that guide their profession as espoused in the Press Code.

Source: Department of Communication