Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams explained she meant to say France when she said she went to Geneva, not Switzerland, with her husband in a televised interview over the controversial trip.
“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.
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.”
She added it had to do with the work she was expected to do, and instructed Mngambi to do his work and get hold of the reporter who wrote the story about her trip to provide evidence of wrongdoing.
After a day of being trolled, she issued a clarifying statement, saying: “Earlier this morning, I had an interview on the South African Morning with Xoli Mngambi on eNCA.
“A question was asked relating to a September 2019 trip to Geneva, Switzerland. When the question was raised, I erroneously referred to Switzerland instead of France, responding to the effect that my husband and I had not been to Switzerland, but Geneva.
“I profusely apologise for this error as I meant to say that we had not been to France in that particular instance, but in Geneva where Mr Abrahams had accompanied me on an official trip in line with the Ministerial Handbook.
“This is informed by previous misleading media reports that had indicated that during this trip, Mr Abrahams travelled to France.”
In January, Ndabeni-Abrahams decried a report in the Sunday Independent alleging she had taken her husband, Thato Abrahams, to the US and Switzerland at the expense of taxpayers’ money to fund her wedding celebrations.
She had reportedly done this without permission from President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Ndabeni-Abrahams had also reportedly allowed her husband to attend official meetings.
She described this as a “malicious smear”.
A statement from her office said: “At the outset, attention is drawn to the fact that the president is not required to approve the inclusion of a spouse for official international trips as long as all is in line with the limits set in the Ministerial Handbook.
“Further, the handbook allows for spouses to accompany members of the executive on two official international trips per year. Therefore, both policy and process were not flouted in Mr Abrahams accompanying the minister to Geneva and New York,” the statement read.
Ndabeni-Abrahams denied her husband had travelled to France on a “shopping spree” using public funds as his passport, which is available for scrutiny, clearly revealed he was in Geneva during this trip, and he had used a chauffeur-driven Mercedes-Benz S600 allocated to her for the shopping spree.
“This is devoid of all truth because it did not happen.”
Ndabeni-Abrahams also denied he had attended government meetings, saying he does, from time-to-time, accompany her to open government events as was the case with any other spouse.