Former deputy minister Mduduzi Manana has on Tuesday moved to clarify the reason behind a picture of him and Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams having lunch at his residence.
The picture, which Manana has since deleted from his social media accounts, rubbed South Africans up the wrong way as the country is currently under the 21-day lockdown due to COVID-19.
Under the lockdown rules, citizens are expected to stay at home and only leave their houses for buying essentials such as food and medicine or if they are fall under essential service workers and are heading to work.
In his statement, Manana said the minister was on her way to meet with a group of students when he offered to donate personal protective equipment to those students.
“The minister relayed to me that the students are in need of PPEs, which my foundation has been handing over to marginalised communities. I then asked the minister to pass by my private residence to collect the material, which she gladly did.”
He said when the Ndabeni-Abrahams arrived, his family was having lunch, and he invited her to join them, to which she agreed, which is when the picture was taken.
“She then collected the material and headed to her next assignment. She took the first patch for the Fourways students and indicated that the next visit will be tomorrow (08 April 2020) at the Menlyn site, which our team will be delivering.”
He admitted to being irresponsible in posting the picture without context in a time where the country was using the lockdown to curb the spread of the virus and said his family would remain housebound.
However, the minister has not made any comment relating to the matter.
In reaction to the image, President Cyril Ramaphosa has called Ndabeni-Abrahams to a meeting to discuss the matter.
Speaking during a visit to Rand Water in Glenvista, the president said he had noted what had happened.
“I have seen the picture of Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams sitting at a luncheon with friends and have asked her to come and see me, so that we can discuss the impact of visuals like these. What we are trying, what we want to do…we want to instill a clear message about social distancing, that you must stay at home and don’t go around on visitations,” he said.
Twitter users have slammed the minister for her actions, with many calling for her arrest.
POLITICAL PARTIES REACT
African National Congress (ANC) deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte on Tuesday wrote a letter to members of the governing party’s national executive committee (NEC) urging them to lead by example during the lockdown.
In the letter, Duarte said NEC members should “demonstrate political consciousness and sensitivity” in their conduct and communication, particularly 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,” the letter read.
Duarte said the national effort to contain and slow the spread of COVID-19 depended on united action and social solidarity, which had “required drastic measures that result in hardship for all, most especially the working class and poor.”
At the same time, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) has called on Ndabeni-Abrahams to apologise to South Africans for what they called “grandiose display of flouting governments lockdown regulations”.
“Ministers are not above the law and the regulations. Luncheons and gatherings at friends or family are in contravention of the gazetted regulations of the lockdown,” the party said in a statement released on Tuesday.
IFP also welcomed Ramaphosa’s handling of the matter.
“This is not a time for double-standards and for displays of leadership in adhering to lockdown regulations. President Ramaphosa should request that Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams apologises and commits to the regulations.”
The party then urged South Africans to continue staying at home to stop the spread of coronavirus.
On the other hand, the Democratic Alliance’s Phumzile van Damme said the president needed to get a handle on his Cabinet.
“He may have the right intentions but the fight against COVID-19 will live or die based on the conduct and performance of his ministers. These ministers are sullying whatever good intentions he may have had.”
She said she would be writing to Ramaphosa regarding the matter.