OPINION | It's the police's turn to act on Ndabeni-Abrahams to show we're all equal before the law

Should she have been fired? Certainly, but the matter is far from over yet as more action is likely to be taken against the communications minister

08 April 2020 - 16:13 By Thabo Mokone
Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams received a stern rebuke from the president and has been suspended for two months, one of them unpaid.
Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams received a stern rebuke from the president and has been suspended for two months, one of them unpaid.
Image: GCIS

In a country where politicians are used to getting away with murder, the punitive steps taken against communications, telecommunications & postal services minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams are refreshing.

For almost an entire decade, under the administration of former president Jacob Zuma, ANC MPs and members of his cabinet were hardly held accountable for their misdemeanours.

Who can forget those outrageous letters sometime in April 2016 that Zuma sent to ministers implicated in the Nkandla scandal, merely telling them that “I hereby delivered the reprimand required” after the Constitutional Court affirmed a recommendation by then public protector Thuli Madonsela.

After all, Zuma himself had reduced public accountability to a circus, as he spent 10 years giggling and laughing at serious questions over the state of the country each time he had a question-and-answer session with MPs.

But after months of being mocked on social media and by commentators, who depicted him as a weak and dithering leader, it seems Ramaphosa is now determined to show he's actually decisive and ruthless.

Not so long ago, social development minister Lindiwe Zulu issued a quick apology after posting a video clip of herself gallivanting on the streets of Johannesburg as she complained about strict rules of the national lockdown while ordinary citizens had no choice but to sit at home. With her stubborn personality, it would not be unreasonable to surmise that her political bosses would have nudged her into issuing the unusual apology.

The action taken by Ramaphosa against Ndabeni-Abrahams this week, after a picture emerged of her enjoying lunch at a friend's house in clear breach of the lockdown rules, is commendable.

Ramaphosa moved swiftly, summoning the delinquent minister to the Union Buildings to rap her over the knuckles on Tuesday after the picture started doing the rounds on Monday night.

Unmoved by her explanations, Ramaphosa placed Ndabeni-Abrahams on special leave (government speak for suspension) for two months, one of which would be without pay or a loss of just over R200,000 before tax.

Should she have been fired? Certainly, but the matter is far from over, as more action is likely to be taken against Ndabeni-Abrahams.

After all, Ramaphosa is a leader who prefers to follow all available legal processes before unleashing a final blow. I suspect he will stick to his tried-and-tested tactic even on this matter.

In his statement, Ramaphosa said, “as to the allegations that the minister violated the lockdown regulations, the law should take its course”, meaning the SA Police Service should now step in as the enforcers of the shutdown rules.

Acting with the support of soldiers from the SA National Defence Force, the police have been harsh in dealing with ordinary people ignoring the lockdown rules, and now they have the opportunity to show we are all equal before the law by going after the communication minister.


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