Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams

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Internet users in South Africa have rushed to social media to express their disappointment about what they described as a slap on the wrist given by President Cyril Ramaphosa to Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams. 

Ndabeni-Abrahams recently broke the lockdown regulations by visiting the home of a friend. The friend is none other than Mduduzi Manana, a former higher education deputy minister, who hosted a lunch, generating uproar on social media.

Ramaphosa summoned the minister on Tuesday, reprimanding her and placing her on ‘’special leave’’ for two months, and ordered her to apologise to the nation.

“The nationwide lockdown calls for absolute compliance on the part of all South Africans. Members of the National Executive carry a special responsibility in setting an example to South Africans, who have to make great sacrifices,” the president said in a statement.

The ‘’errant minister’’ has since apologised, saying that she regretted the incident. “I am deeply sorry for my actions. I hope the president and South Africans will find it in their hearts to forgive me,” she said in a statement posted on Facebook.

But immediately after the lenient sentence and the apology, Facebook erupted with criticism of both the president and the minister, with users outpouring their anger and grief over the issue.

“Lol, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams gets "Special Leave" for two months? She's really "special" hey?” one user wrote on her page. Another user, who was probably expecting more than a special leave, said: “Should have been handed over to the soldiers and made to roll on the ground Neh?”

Local media have also been whining about the minister’s inappropriate behaviour, with the Sowetan newspaper screaming in its Tuesday’s front page: “Break the rules and if you are a minister, you get to see the president. And if you are Joe citizen, you get a beating of your life.”

The newspaper was referring to the brutality and disproportionate force shown by South African Police during the lockdown. 

‘Some have even lost their lives. Equality is not equal on the farm that we call South Africa,” said one user on Facebook.

The Democratic Alliance has echoed social network users’ sentiments, calling on the head of state to sack Ndabeni-Abrahams. 

“He cannot expect that in these circumstances a mere slap on the wrist will suffice. The majority of the people of our country have done so with diligence. Many have lost jobs and incomes while staying at home as he requested. Some have been brutalised by security forces for not obeying the law. Ndabeni-Abrahams must go,” Phumzile Van Damme, DA MP and shadow minister of communications and digital technologies, said in a statement.

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