Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has been fined R1,000 for breaching lockdown regulations.
She was ordered to appear in the Pretoria District Court on 22 May to pay the fine as an admission of guilt, though numerous reports state that she has already paid the fine after admitting guilt.
Earlier this month the presidency announced that President Cyril Ramaphosa had placed Ndabeni-Abrahams on special leave for two months – one month of which would be unpaid.
According to NPA spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane, the minister now has a criminal record. The admission of guilt fine is determined by the senior magistrate for the magisterial district of Tshwane. The amount of R1,000 was set for the offence of failing to confine oneself to one’s place of residence without a valid reason for leaving one’s home.
It is unlikely that this blot on her record will force her to have to resign as an MP and a minister since the rules around who can serve as a member of parliament state that those who have been convicted of an offence and sentenced to more than a year in prison without the option of a fine cannot be MPs. This would therefore presumably not apply to her, since she was only given a fine.
Any person can lose their membership of the National Assembly if they “cease to be eligible”.
It is possible that she could still face an ethics probe in parliament, however.
Ramaphosa had earlier summoned the minister for her to explain why she appeared to have broken lockdown regulations by having lunch with former ANC MP Mduduzi Manana at his home. Manana, a former deputy minister of higher education, posted a photo of their meal together with his family, which sparked public condemnation and calls for her to be fired.
Ramaphosa accepted the minister’s apology for the violation “but was unmoved by mitigating factors she tendered”.
During her special leave, Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu was to act in her position.
The president reprimanded the minister and directed her to deliver a public apology to the nation, which she did later in the day in a video.
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.”
A police investigation had determined that her visit to Manana’s residence had not been for the allowed purposes of delivering an essential service, collecting essential goods, getting a grant or seeking medical attention.
The National Prosecuting Authority said all citizens needed to be treated equally before the law and they were committed to delivering justice “without fear, favour or prejudice”.