Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams
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  • Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams was placed on special leave after a former colleague posted a photo of having her around for a meal.
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa also ordered her to deliver a public apology. 
  • Ndabeni-Abrahams has had to previously apologise when she tried to censor reporters from the SABC. 
  • For more stories go to the Business Insider South Africa homepage.

Communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams was placed on special leave on Wednesday after a former colleague posted a photo of her at lunch during SA's Covid-19 lockdown.

President Cyril Ramaphosa also ordered the 42-year-old minister to deliver a public apology.

One month of her de facto suspension will be unpaid.

"None of us – not least a member of the national executive – should undermine our national effort to save lives in this very serious situation,” Ramaphosa said, in a statement where he also reported he had been "unmoved" by his minister's explanation for the breach of lockdown rules.

Here’s everything you need to know about Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

She was born in Mthata, in the Eastern Cape 

Ndabeni-Abrahams was born in Mthata in 1978, the first of six children.

Both her parents were pastors, and she frequently mentions her faith as a source of strength in interviews.


She holds a Project Management Diploma 

Ndabeni-Abrahams received an advanced certificate in project management from Rhodes University; a Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation diploma in telecommunications and management systems; and a certificate in telecommunications and policy and regulation management from Witwatersrand University. 

She also holds a project management diploma from Cranefield College in Tshwane.


She got married in the rain - and the best man missed the wedding 

Drum reported that the then deputy communications minister married Thato Abrahams in 2012 in Umtata.

The wedding was delayed due to rain, and key guests – including the best man – missed the service because their plane had to be diverted due to the bad weather. 


Ndabeni-Abrahams is a mother of three

Ndabeni-Abrahams has three children, but she and her husband has made an effort to keep the children out of the spotlight. 


Her husband was accused of cheating on her in 2018 

The Sunday World reported that Ndabeni-Abrahams found naked photos of another person on a phone she borrowed from her husband. 

Details of the affair were believed to have been widely shared on ANC WhatsApp groups. 

Both Ndabeni-Abrahams and the other person involved denied that there was ever a cheating scandal. 


She was a big Zuma supporter, and is now a big Ramaphosa supporter 

According to IOL, Ndabeni-Abrahams defended former president Jacob Zuma against Winnie Madikizela-Mandela when she criticised Zuma as a proud polygamist.

Zuma in 2011 appointed Ndabeni-Abrahams as the deputy communications minister. 

In the lead up to the ANC’s 2017 presidential elections, she publicly backed Cyril Ramaphosa against Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. 


She clashed with a minister while still a deputy minister

As deputy communications minister, Ndabeni-Abrahams clashed with former communications minister Faith Muthambi after she wrote a letter to then-president Jacob Zuma. 

In the letter, she accused Muthambi of treating her as if she is her personal assistant, and sidelining her by not involving her in the department’s projects.


Her appointment was praised by opposition parties 

Ndabeni-Abrahams' appointment as communications minister in 2018 was praised by both the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

She was praised among other things for having an understanding of what is required for the digital revolution in South Africa.


She tried to censor the SABC  

Ndabeni-Abrahams, who is ultimately responsible for governance at the public broadcaster as minister, issued an apology for trying to block a SABC crew from filming a service delivery protest at ANC rally in the Eastern Cape before the elections in 2019.

The SABC reported that the minister put her hand in front of a camera after people stormed the venue to complain about a lack of service delivery in the area, and allegedly told the journalists that they could not film the protest.


Her house in Mthatha burnt down last year 

Ndabeni-Abrahams did not say what caused her house in Mthatha to take flame in October, 2019, saying instead that she was trusting God to help her through the tragedy.

Sharing a photo of the burning house on Facebook, Ndabeni-Abrahams complained about journalists who asked to take pictures. 

"My house is burning and all they see is a story in it that they must be allowed to take pictures. God bless journalists," she posted. 


Ndabeni-Abrahams takes her husband along on expensive international trips 

The minister recently got tangled up in a debate over the details of a controversial trip to Europe with her husband. The Sunday Independent reported that she allegedly used taxpayers’ money to fund her wedding anniversary celebrations in the United States and Switzerland by taking her husband, Thato Abrahams, along without permission from Ramaphosa. 

In a televised interview, the minister denied ever being in Switzerland - and said she only visited Geneva (which is a city in Switzerland).

"You flew your husband on taxpayers' money all the way to Switzerland in order to celebrate the anniversary of your wedding. Is that true?" asked eNCA reporter Xoli Mngambi in the exchange. 

Ndabeni-Abrahams replied testily: "What do you think Xoli? Do you think I would take my husband to a wedding anniversary in Switzerland? 

"I had said on this matter as I issued a statement that … meaning Xoli … the statement that you read, I said I've never been in Switzerland, my husband has never been to Switzerland, we went to Geneva and New York."

Later, she had to correct herself and said she meant France - not Geneva. 

Ndabeni-Abrahams also said her husband joined her in line with the benefits described in the ministerial handbook.

(Compiled by James de Villiers) 

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