South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. PHOTO | FILE | AFP
By PETER DUBE & CHRIS ERASMUS
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has sent Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams on a two-month leave for violating a government-imposed lockdown meant to curb the spread of coronavirus.
This comes after a photo surfaced on Instagram showing Ms Ndabeni-Abrahams being hosted for lunch on Sunday at the home of former deputy minister of higher education Mduduzi Manana, violating a government ban on social activity until April 16.
The Minister will not receive pay for one of the two months she’ll be on forced leave.
Mr Manana posted the pictures on Instagram, infuriating social media users who called on President Ramaphosa to take stern action.
“As to allegations that the minister violated the lockdown regulations, the law should take its course,” Presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko said in a statment on Wednesday.
Mr Ramaphosa summoned Ms Ndabeni-Abrahams on Tuesday to express his disapproval of her actions.
The South African leader, according to his spokesperson, accepted Ms Ndabeni-Abrahams’ apology for the violation, but was unmoved by the explanation she tendered.
The Minister in The Presidency Jackson Mthembu will act in Ms Ndabeni-Abrahams’ position.
South Africa, which has the highest viral incidence on the continent, has so far confirmed 1,749 cases of Covid-19.
Meanwhile, community testing started this week in South Africa’s high-density suburbs on the fringes of its major metropolitan areas.
Mr Ramaphosa’s government has promised to expand the testing, eventually, to every home in every street.
Initially, however, the primary focus was on high-density shanty settlements where there have already been cases of the pandemic virus reported and where the prospects for significant person-to-person spread are very high.
Day one of the community testing, using mobile laboratories, produced mixed reactions.
Some communities co-operated but in others, the test teams, in full hazmat gear, were viewed with suspicion, with some who were due to be tested “running away”.
Despite government’s announcements, many residents were not aware of testing taking place in their communities and some said they were afraid of engaging with the health workers for fear of becoming infected by them.
Others did not want to be “taken away” if found positive.