Stella must step aside pending investigations of numerous allegations of corruption

Issued by Phumzile Van Damme MP – DA Shadow Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies
02 Oct 2020 in News

Please find attached soundbite by Phumzile Van Damme MP

Following the latest in a string of allegations of Covid-related and other corruption implicating the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, she must step aside to allow investigations against her to be investigated without impediment.

The latest allegation is that in July 2020, Ndabeni-Abrahams flouted procurement processes at the South Africa Post Office (SAPO) by introducing a businessman and chairperson of private equity firm, Convergence Partners, Andile Ngcaba, to SAPO’s executives in an alleged bid to partner on a highly lucrative R2.1 billion e-commerce platform.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has it on good authority that this is a practice Ndabeni-Abrahams regularly engages in – facilitating “meetings” to influence outcomes in the awarding of tenders. This is said to occur not only in her department but many others.

We are aware that the SIU is currently conducting an investigation of corruption related to Covid-19 tenders. We will therefore be writing to the SIU to ascertain whether the allegations against Ndabeni-Abrahams are being investigated, if not, we will formally request that it does so.

The string of allegations against Ndabeni-Abrahams almost all relate to alleged improper influence and abuse of power in favour of her husband, Thato Abrahams and go back nine years.

  • A draft forensic audit in 2011 by the Universal Service Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) found that Thato Abrahams while in its employ had stolen about 20 iPads and other electronic gadgets from USAASA. At the time Ndabeni-Abrahams was the Deputy Minister of Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, the department USAASA reported to. The forensic report was given to Ndabeni-Abrahams and was concealed from public record. No further action was taken against Mr. Abrahams. Ndabeni-Abrahams and Mr. Abrahams were in a relationship at the time and married a year later. The DA will be submitting a Promotion of Access to Information (PAIA) to get hold of the report.
  • In August 2020 Ndabeni-Abrahams was accused of putting pressure on SAPO and the Postbank to award a Covid-19 relief grant contract to her husband. Mr Abrahams is alleged to have played a vital behind-the-scenes role between Blue Label Telecoms, the SA Postbank and a former SA Post Office executive to benefit financially from the distribution of the R350 Covid-19 relief grant. SAPO’s board was against SAPO’s involvement in the distribution of the grants, saying that the partnership with SASSA exposed it to massive financial losses. Ndabeni-Abrahams subsequently instructed the Chairperson of the SAPO board Tshikani Colleen Makhubele, to step down.
  • In the same month it was alleged that in another entity reporting to Ndabeni-Abraham’s department, the State Information Agency (SITA), Mr Abrahams was  working closely behind the scenes with SITA to identify companies that have been granted, or are in line to receive IT-related government contracts. Mr Abrahams is said to have close ties with the SITA’s administrator Luvuyo Keyise, appointed by Ndabeni-Abrahams soon after she dissolved the SITA board.

We are aware that Ndabeni-Abrahams has made herself available to the ANC’s Integrity Commission but that is neither here or there. The allegations relates to infringement in her capacity as a Minister, an elected public representative not only as an ANC member. The ANC is well within its rights to investigate the Minister’s conduct, but one conducted by a public law enforcement agency is required. And it is practice that the individual implicated steps aside or is suspended. This is a precedent set by President Cyril Ramaphosa himself when his Spokesperson Khusela Diko took a leave of absence following a Covid-19 tender scandal.

It is still our firm belief that Ndabeni-Abrahams is not fit for the office she holds and ought to be fired. We await the rumoured impending Cabinet reshuffle and trust that she will be shuffled straight out of the door.