In a statement on Sunday, the EFF condemned the allegations in a Sunday report that the communications minister, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, had supposedly abused state resources to fund overseas jaunts with her husband to the US and Switzerland, along with other alleged irregularities.
However, the Sunday Independent’s report itself has, however, been brought into question since it appears to have distorted the contents of the Ministerial Handbook.
Was Cyril Ramaphosa’s permission required for Ndabeni – Abrahams to travel with her husband in terms of the Ministerial Handbook? Or just another smear campaign perpetuated by Piet Rampedi's cabal? pic.twitter.com/y4giK9uRfl
— Abuti Josef???????? (@AbutiJosef) January 19, 2020
EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi claimed on Sunday they were outraged by the “continuing tendencies of ministers who treat state resources and use taxpayer’s money as they wish”, adding that they had been “made aware” of “all these allegations before they appeared in the media”.
The party said they would write to the public protector to investigate, as well as call on President Cyril Ramaphosa to take “strong action” against the minister, or he would be guilty of more “indecisiveness and lack of leadership”.
They also called on Ndabeni-Abrahams’ husband, Thato Abrahams, to refrain from allegedly interfering in government activities such as “interviewing for candidates for positions on the various boards for which [his wife] has political oversight”.
EFF Statement on Communication Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams Abuse of State Resources Through Her Husband. pic.twitter.com/fhP35FSTdl
— Economic Freedom Fighters (@EFFSouthAfrica) January 19, 2020
The Sunday Independent had reported earlier that the minister had not had permission from Ramaphosa to take her husband on the trips to the US and Europe in September last year and that she “allowed her husband to attend official meetings” related to her department.
Two return business class tickets to Switzerland alone cost the state an alleged R76,719, and her husband had reportedly even used his wife’s officially supplied “chauffeur-driven Mercedes-Benz S600” to travel from Geneva to Paris, in France, “to go shopping”.
“The president is not required to approve the inclusion of a spouse, as long as it is line with limits set in the Ministerial Handbook,” Khusela Diko explained.
Public Works Minister Patricia De Lille, however, was quoted as disputing this, claiming – not entirely accurately – that an application in writing within 14 days, with an official motivation and explanation, would have been required for spousal accompaniment, according to the Handbook.
She was quoted saying the following: “Each and every trip, you need to make an application in writing within 14 days and motivate why you must take your spouse along,” she said.
If De Lille did, in fact, say this, it might suggest she was either not familiar with, or comprehending of, the full text of the Ministerial Handbook.
The Handbook says the following about spousal trips: “Ministers and Deputy Ministers may be accompanied by their spouse (or an adult family member instead) on, no more than two (2) international trips per year if a) the trip undertaken is longer than 3 days; and b) the Minister or Deputy Minister is invited to attend official duties accompanied by a spouse or adult family member.”
The section in the Handbook that De Lille may have been referring to – or was confused by – was the requirement that ministers must “approach the President in writing to request approval for intended visits [overseas] and in the event of a planned official visit abroad, such request should be at least two weeks prior to departure”.
The Sunday Independent’s article, however, did not report on whether the minister had in fact failed to seek permission for her trip at all – as she should have – choosing only to focus on her husband’s inclusion, and whether that had been approved.
Nothing in the Handbook appears to dictate that Ndabeni-Abrahams would have needed Ramaphosa’s approval for her husband’s inclusion on the trip.
The Handbook also allows for business class travel for flights of longer than two hours, as long as “the cost of air travel shall be the cheapest of three (3) quotations”.
Others on Sunday had similarly noticed and criticised the discrepancy between the Handbook’s actual wording and the newspaper report.
AND they definitely don't require approval from the President to do so – It's already regulated in the Ministerial Handbook. That story on Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams is not only silly, but also exposes how media houses won't allow things like facts to get in the way of clickbait. https://t.co/YYtmm1J5Rs
— Nonceba Mhlauli (@NoncebaMhlauli) January 19, 2020