NATIONAL NEWS - In a statement on Tuesday afternoon following the massive fallout of him posting a picture of Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams having lunch with him and his family at his house, former ANC MP and deputy minister Mduduzi Manana told the country she had actually been at his home in her official capacity, and was therefore supposedly not in breach of lockdown rules.
Manana appeared to contradict his own caption in his earlier, now deleted, Instagram photo of their lunch, in which he’d said the minister had already been done with her duties for the day when she’d dropped by at his home.
He now says that she came to his home to pick up gloves, hand sanitiser and masks for students in Fourways who had been working on “Digital Services” in the fight against Covid-19. Manana said he had stock of such personal protective equipment at his home because of the work of the Mduduzi Manana Foundation.
Manana claimed that he had merely invited Ndabeni-Abrahams for lunch upon her arrival because he was being “courteous”.
He apologised for supposedly having posted the picture without clear context, creating the impression that it had been “a social lunch”.
However, Manana’s original caption had said: “It was great to host a former colleague and dear sister Cde Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams (minister of communications and digital technologies) on her way back from executing critical and essential services required for the effective functioning of our country during the nationwide lockdown.”
Manana had also told Jacaranda FM: “I think the minister must respond for herself because I was home and she was working nearby, so it was not dinner per se.”
DA MP Phumzile Van Damme was among those who noticed the discrepancy in the various statements. She accused Manana of lying to cover for the minister.
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday summoned Ndabeni-Abrahams to come and see him about the issue.
He said: “I have seen the picture of Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams sitting at the luncheon with a number of friends and other people. I have asked her to come and see me, so she is going to come and see me and I am going to have a discussion with her about the impact of visuals…”
ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte also called on ANC senior members to observe the lockdown rules and set the example, and not take photos if they were not doing so.
According to the 21-day lockdown regulations implemented by government, people are only allowed to go to stores to get essential items or if they are rendering essential services. They should not be going to each other’s houses for a bite to eat.
According to the picture posted, and later deleted by Manana, Ndabeni-Abrahams stopped by Manana’s house for a meal on her way back from “executing” essential services.
People have called on Ramaphosa to take action against the minister amid a lockdown that has seen thousands of South Africans being arrested for disobeying regulations.
Van Damme had earlier said she would be writing to Ramaphosa to take action against the minister.
She said on Tuesday afternoon in a statement that his summoning of the minister is “simply not good enough” and she should be charged criminally and fired.
“He must set an example as the president of South Africa that lawlessness while our country deals with a global pandemic will not be tolerated, regardless of from whom it comes.
“He therefore ought to lay a criminal complaint against Ndabeni-Abrahams, a person who he appointed as a minister and member of his Cabinet. And he must go a further step by removing her from his Cabinet.
“President Ramaphosa addressed the nation twice asking South Africans to obey the law while containment strategies for Covid-19 were being implemented. The majority of the people of our country have done so with diligence. Many have lost jobs and incomes while staying at home as he requested. Some have been brutalised by security forces for not obeying the law.
“He cannot expect that in these circumstances a mere slap on the wrist will suffice. Ndabeni-Abrahams must go!”
In 2018 Manana announced through his foundation that he was voluntarily resigning as a member of parliament for the ANC despite the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) declining to prosecute him for alleged assault against his domestic worker.
He said he had waited for his name to be “cleared” as quitting earlier would have been an “admission of guilt”, despite mounting pressure from even those within his own party.
Manana said the NPA’s decision left him feeling “totally exonerated”.
It was reported that his domestic worker Christine Wiro withdrew a case of assault against him after he allegedly pushed her down the stairs at his home. He was also caught on a recording offering her R100,000 as a “consolation” after she went to the police.
Wiro later explained that she didn’t want to pursue the case since Manana was a powerful man.
Manana said he had decided to resign after about a decade in the National Assembly so that he could focus on campaigning for the ANC, and on his business and academic interests.
He said that in the spirit of Ramaphosa’s Thuma Mina campaign he would be donating a portion of his pension to charity, with R1 million going to a men’s group fighting abuse, and another R500,000 to a group distributing sanitary pads.
He also committed to funding the Unisa studies of five students, to increase “their capacity” to understand local gender relations.
Manana concluded by committing himself to combating sexual and gender-based violence “wherever it manifests itself”.