South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday placed on special leave a minister seen lunching at a friend’s house in violation of the coronavirus lockdown.
Ramaphosa has ordered a three-week national lockdown to try to brake the virus, which has infected 1,749 people, killing 13 of them, according to an official tally.
But a picture posted on Instagram on Sunday showed Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams having lunch with five other people at the home of a former deputy minister earlier that day.
“President Ramaphosa has placed the Minister on special leave for two months,” the presidency said in a statement.
Ramaphosa has “accepted the minister’s apology for the violation but was unmoved by mitigating factors she tendered,” it said.
“The nation-wide lockdown calls for absolute compliance on the part of all South Africans,” Ramaphosa was quoted as saying.
“None of us -– not least a member of the national executive -– should undermine our national effort to save lives in this very serious situation,” said Ramaphosa. “No-one is above the law.”
Shortly after the president’s statement, the minister issued an apology.
“I regret the incident and I am deeply sorry for my actions,” said Ndabeni-Abrahams in a statement issued through her ministry. “I hope the president and South Africans will find it in their hearts to forgive me.”
“I wish to use this opportunity to reiterate the President’s call for all of us to observe the lockdown rules. They are a necessary intervention to curb the spread of a virus that has devastated many nations.”
Last month, just two days into the lockdown, Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu was forced to issue an apology after she posted a video on her Instagram account, joking about how she was struggling to stay home.