'A malicious smear': Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams denies taxpayers funded her wedding anniversary party
Communications and telecommunications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has rejected a media report claiming taxpayers paid for her wedding anniversary celebrations in 2019.
Ndabeni-Abrahams described the allegations of abuse of power and state resources, and interfering with the public broadcaster's editorial independence, as a malicious smear campaign that should be treated with contempt.
“At the outset, attention is drawn to the fact that the president is not required to approve the inclusion of a spouse for official international trips, as long as all is in line with the limits set in the Ministerial Handbook.
“Further, the handbook allows for spouses to accompany members of the executive on two official international trips per year. Therefore, both policy and process were not flouted in Mr Abrahams accompanying the minister to Geneva and New York,” she said in a statement issued by her office on Monday.
She added: “That the trip coincided with the minister's anniversary is of no consequence as public funds were not used and/or misused for this purpose. It is also malicious to claim that Mr Abrahams travelled to France on a 'shopping spree' utilising public funds as his passport, which is available for scrutiny, clearly reveals that he was in Geneva at all times during this trip.”
Ndabeni-Abrahams also rejected as “baseless” an allegation that her husband used a chauffeur-driven Mercedes Benz S600 that was allocated to her for the reported shopping spree in France.
"This is devoid of all truth because it did not happen. It is therefore very opportunistic for the journalist to make this fabrication the centre of his article. There is no doubt this was done with the aim of casting aspersions on the integrity of minister Ndabeni-Abrahams and cause damage to her character."
She also denied that her husband had interfered in the affairs of her portfolio or attended government meetings, but admitted that from time to time he accompanied her to open government events, as was the case with any other spouse.
Ndabeni-Abrahams said the claims were spurious, disingenuous and misleading.
The minister claimed there was political malice at play, which had given shape to a well-orchestrated and sinister campaign to discredit and deter her from fulfilling her department's mandate, which included sector transformation.
She welcomed the EFF's call for investigation and believed it would assist in educating the party on how issues of public service in relation to ministerial duties and responsibilities were conducted.
The Sunday Independent reported on Sunday that Ndabeni-Abrahams allegedly used thousands in taxpayers’ money to fund her wedding anniversary celebrations in the US and Switzerland by taking her husband, Thato Abrahams, along without permission from President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Among other allegations, the paper claimed Ndabeni-Abrahams stood accused of outsourcing departmental functions to her husband by allowing him to interview candidates for positions on the various boards for which she had political oversight.