In a statement on Wednesday, Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams apologised to President Cyril Ramaphosa, the National Command Centre and South African society at large for breaching lockdown rules put in place to curb the spread of Covid-19.
She later released a video of her apology too.
Ramaphosa and Ndabeni-Abrahams met yesterday after a photo was circulated on social media showing the minister at the home of former ANC MP Mduduzi Manana during the lockdown and social distancing period.
The presidency then announced that Ramaphosa had placed Ndabeni-Abrahams on special leave for two months – one month of which would be unpaid.
He had summoned her to explain to him why she appeared to have broken lockdown regulations by having lunch with former ANC MP Mduduzi Manana at his home this week. Manana posted a photo of their meal together, which sparked condemnation and calls for her to be fired.
“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,” said Ndabeni-Abrahams.
She added: “The president has suspended me with immediate effect. I undertake to abide by the conditions of the suspension.
“I wish to use 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.”
The presidency has said that the law should take its course on whether she is guilty of violating the lockdown.
Ramaphosa accepted her apology “but was unmoved by mitigating factors she tendered”. The president reprimanded her and directed her to deliver a public apology to the nation.
During Ndabeni-Abrahams’ special leave, Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu will act in her position.
Ramaphosa has 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.”