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Taxpayers foot bill for minister’s wedding anniversary, overseas trips

Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams allegedly used thousands in taxpayers’ money to fund her wedding anniversary celebrations in the US and Switzerland by taking her husband, Thato Abrahams, along without permission from President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Johannesburg – Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams allegedly used thousands in taxpayers’ money to fund her wedding anniversary celebrations in the US and Switzerland by taking her husband, Thato Abrahams, along without permission from President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Sunday Independent can reveal that Ndabeni-Abrahams also allowed her husband to attend official meetings.

The pair took two international trips in September 2019, to New York and Switzerland. According to internal documents and senior government officials, the minister attended a conference in New York.

Ndabeni-Abrahams proceeded to Geneva, Switzerland, to take part in a congress. While in Switzerland, Thato allegedly took the chauffeur-driven Mercedes-Benz S600 that had been allocated to Ndabeni-Abrahams, from Geneva to Paris, in France, to go shopping.

The couple got married at a lavish wedding in Mthatha, Eastern Cape, in September 2012 and last year was their seventh anniversary.

Ndabeni-Abrahams has also been accused of outsourcing departmental functions to Thato, by allowing him to interview candidates for positions on the various boards for which she has political oversight.

An official government letter for the trip, seen by the Sunday Independent, reveals that two return business class tickets to Switzerland cost taxpayers R76719, excluding food and accommodation.

On Saturday, Ndabeni-Abrahams’ spokesperson, Nthabeleng Mokitimi-Dlamini, confirmed that the minister’s husband accompanied her on the two international trips, but claimed that Ramaphosa’s permission was not required for Thato’s travel in terms of the Ministerial Handbook.

“The president is not required to approve the inclusion of a spouse, as long as it is line with limits set in the Ministerial Handbook.” Mokitimi-Dlamini said.

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, on Saturday said the president doesn’t approve travel arrangements for partners or children of the ministers.

“Travel of partners and children are regulated by the Ministerial Handbook,” Diko said.

However, Public Works minister Patricia De Lille said they were required to motivate and seek presidential approval for spouses each time they wanted them to accompany them on overseas trips.

“Each and every trip, you need to make an application in writing within 14 days and motivate why you must take your spouse along,” she said.

Chapter 6 of the Ministerial Handbook states clearly that “Ministers and Deputy Ministers should approach the President in writing to request approval for the intended visit and in the event of a planned official visit abroad, such request should be at least two weeks prior to departure.”

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