'Ndabeni-Abrahams was picking up masks': Manana explains lockdown 'lunch' photo

07 April 2020 - 16:07
By Qaanitah Hunter
Mduduzi Manana. File photo.
Image: Alon Skuy Mduduzi Manana. File photo.

Former higher education deputy minister Mduduzi Manana said communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams was picking up masks and protective gear from his home before she sat down for lunch.

In a statement issued on Tuesday after public outrage over a picture showing Manana and Ndabeni-Abrahms having lunch and drinks on Sunday, Manana said the minister was picking up a donation from his foundation.

He said it was irresponsible for him to have posted the picture without the required context “creating the impression that it was a social lunch”. 

He said he apologised for the impression created that Ndabeni-Abrahams was there for a social visit.

“On April 5 2020, I received a call from the minister of communications and digital technologies, Ms Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, who informed me that she is visiting a site in the Fourways area where a number of students are working on the Covid-19 digital services. The minister relayed to me that the students are in need of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves and hand sanitisers which my foundation has been handing over to marginalised communities. I then asked the minister to pass by my private residence and collect the material which she gladly did,” Manana said in his statement posted on Instagram.

It is unclear which student programme Manana is referring to and why the minister physically fetched protective gear herself.

“On her arrival, my family was having lunch and I courteously inviter her to join us. She then collected the material and headed to her next assignment. She took the first batch for the Fourways students and indicated that the next visit will be tomorrow (8 April) at the Menlyn site which our team will be delivering,” Manana said.

The controversy over the Ndabeni-Abrahams visit prompted President Cyril Ramaphosa to summon her to a meeting.

“I have seen the picture of minister Ndabeni Abrahams sitting at a 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 like those on what we are trying to do,” Ramaphosa said on Tuesday.  

Manana posted the picture on Instagram on Sunday.

“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,” he captioned the now-deleted post.

“We are trying to instil a clear message to all our people that social distance is important. Let us stay at home. Let us not be going around with visitations. And if you have to, it must be work-related,” Ramaphosa said.

Manana said he and his family remain housebound and his foundation will continue making interventions to curb the spread of Covid-19.