Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has slammed a Sunday Independent report, in which she is accused of abusing taxpayers’ money, describing the article as a “malicious smear campaign”.
The report, published on Sunday, said the minister allegedly used thousands of rand in taxpayers’ money to fund her wedding anniversary celebrations in the US and Switzerland by taking her husband, Thato Abrahams, along on the business trips without permission from President Cyril Ramaphosa.
In a statement issued by Ndabeni-Abrahams’ spokeswoman, Nthabeleng Mokitimi-Dlamini, on Monday morning, the minister expressed “extreme disappointment” in the article, which she said must 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. 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,” the statement said.
“That the trip coincided with the minister’s anniversary is of no consequence as public funds were not used 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.”
‘Devoid of all truth’
“A baseless allegation is also made that Mr Abrahams used a ‘chauffeur-driven Mercedes Benz S600 that was allocated to the minister’ for the said ‘shopping spree’. 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 that this was done with the aim of casting aspersions on the integrity of minister Ndabeni-Abrahams and cause damage to her character,” the statement said.
“The minister further assures the public that Mr Abrahams has not attended any government meetings… From time to time, he accompanies the minister to open government events, as is the case with any other spouse. Further, Mr Abrahams has never interfered in the affairs of the ministry of communications & digital technologies, as alleged in the article.”
The minister called on “anyone, including the journalist who authored the article, to provide evidence that points to impropriety and abuse of state resources on her part to report it to the relevant authorities, including the alleged meetings in which her husband sat in and the discussions thereof”.
“The article, with its malicious intent, has caused unnecessary reputational damage to the minister and, as such, the media is urged to guard against being conduits for gossip and character assassination, but at all times to exercise due care by adhering to the ethics that guide their profession as espoused in the Press Code.” — © 2020 NewsCentral Media