Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams fired a South African Post Office (Sapo) board member last month, after allegations surfaced that he was doing business with her husband Thato Abrahams.
During an intense meeting with Sapo board members in Pretoria on August 7, the minister warned she would fire anyone else who served under her portfolio and who was found guilty of doing business with her family.
The board member has been identified as Bonolo Ramokhele, who was forced to resign soon after Ndabeni-Abrahams received an SMS relating to business dealings with her husband.
It appears Thato Abrahams was aware his business partner Ramokhele, in his capacity as a board member, reported to his wife, Ndabeni-Abrahams.
In a leaked recording of the meeting, sent to Independent Media’s special investigations unit, the minister confirmed she directed Ramokhele to resign the next day.
“I told him this is what has come to my attention and he needs to make sure he resigns by tomorrow, as I am not going to have any board members doing ‘alleged’ work with my husband.
“My family members are not me. I am the only one who works within this department and only I should be concerned with the affairs here.”
She stressed this was not the first time a board member has contacted her husband.
“The chairperson of this board will attest to this. When she too sent a message to my husband about a board member, I reprimanded her and reminded her as to who I am and what I stand for.
“I reprimanded her to never report anything to a member of my family. I went to the extent of even telling my chief executive if anyone else who works with me, under the portfolios I am responsible for, has anything to do with my family, they must know they too will be fired,” she warned.
According to insiders who spoke to Independent Media, the meeting was a special general meeting called by the minister. Those present in the meeting included all Sapo board members and executive members, as well as senior officials of the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies.
In the recording, Ndabeni-Abrahams told the board members she received a threatening SMS from an unknown number, complaining about service providers who were not being paid by Sapo.
“In the message I was instructed to tell the Post Office to pay as soon as possible, or else the dirty linen surrounding my family members and our dealings with Sapo will be revealed. I have never requested anything from any board member or executive. If any of you know otherwise, raise your hand here and tell the people beside me that I have asked for this favour.
“Except for the things that I am supposed to be involved in, like the appointment of the chief financial officer and chief executive officer – that I had to approve. If any of you have evidence, please raise it here,” she said.
Board members were also questioned about recent media reports that claim the minister intended firing the Sapo board for standing their ground against her and not wanting her to interfere with Post Office affairs.
Responding to questions, Mish Molakeng, Ndabeni-Abrahams’s spokesperson, said he was surprised that Independent Media would openly claim to be in possession of recordings which were confidential and proprietary to Sapo and the department.
“It must be apparent to you that the recordings were improperly obtained by yourselves or otherwise shared with yourselves by persons acting in brazen breach and disregard of their fiduciary duties to the entities concerned. We therefore cannot comment on claims in recordings which have been improperly obtained, in blatant disregard of the law. Please urgently let us know how this information was obtained so that the appropriate legal steps can be taken,” said Molakeng
Responding to questions, Ramokhele said: “The questions raised in your correspondence overlap with the issues raised in the story published by yourself on the August 27, 2020, and correspondence sent by my attorneys to Independent Media already. Until the matter has been dealt with through that forum of attorneys, I shall not engage further, as advised by my attorneys.”
Two members of the board have confidentially revealed to Independent Media’s special investigations unit that they have laid an official complaint with the Public Protector for her to investigate the business links between Ndabaeni-Abrahams, her husband and his business partner Ramokhele.