Opposition parties outraged by sanctions handed to KZN Health MEC over maskless party
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DURBAN - OPPOSITION parties have slammed Premier Sihle Zikalala over the sanctions handed down to Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane for her surprise birthday lunch where Covid-19 regulations were flouted.
Simelane’s punishment would be a 50% dock in salary and the money would be paid to non-governmental organisations that fight Covid-19 in the Amajuba District Municipality, where Simelane is a champion. She would also have to make a public apology and received a warning from Zikalala.
In Simelane’s report to the premier, she said the party was held at a venue which was well-ventilated, had the appropriate social distancing, and that guests were fully aware and were regularly reminded, by both the master of ceremonies and the MEC, to adhere to Covid-19 regulations.
The MEC had, last week, said she regretted the failure by some of the attendees, including herself, to wear masks when people stood up to dance and were not wearing masks, as they were also eating at the time.
On Sunday, Zikalala said that in most cases there was no sincerity from the opposition.
“It is just politics, a game of trying to take advantage and opportunistic tendencies that seek to undermine the government, rather than to oppose objectively and based on fact.
“That’s why we want to take that issue as it is and we will stand at that level because we will not want to glorify desperation, because some of the activities of the opposition just come from that state of desperation,” said Zikalala.
Simelane said she would not comment on the opposition parties’ approach, particularly because the DA indicated they wanted to take the matter to court “which would make it sub judice”. She reserved the right to comment and present her side of the story in court.
DA chief whip in the KZN legislature Zwakele Mncwango, who had initially lodged the complaint about Simelane’s party and the flouting of Covid-19 regulations, said they were unhappy with the sanctions. He said the party would discuss taking the matter further because they expected the sanction to be equal to the crime.
He referenced then Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, who was suspended and her entire salary docked, and Carl Niehaus – who was facing charges for flouting Covid-19 regulations.
“If the premier believes all that nonsense and lies, it means the premier is not in touch with reality. The premier is being naive or deciding to ignore all these factors for the sake of putting himself within the ANC factional battles,” said Mncwango.
He said the ANC could not ignore the fact that ANC leaders were at the party and that, if they wanted to be taken seriously in the province, the premier should call or charge them.
“I think it’ll be difficult for them to charge others for breaching regulations. You cannot have a selective approach when it comes to these matters because, clearly, they are being selective,” said Mncwango.
IFP president Velenkosini Hlabisa said they were appalled by Zikalala’s findings and recommendations, which were based on falsified information. Hlabisa said the findings underestimated the intelligence of the people of KZN.
He questioned whether Zikalala viewed the footage, where Simelane was on the dance floor – without wearing a mask and not physically distancing.
“Simelane undermined the adjusted level 3 Covid-19 regulations by providing a distorted account of her side of the story.
“We believe that she should have been honest and remorseful. The MEC must tell the truth and apologise,” Hlabisa said.
“The premier of KwaZulu-Natal has compromised himself badly with his poor – possibly misinformed judgment. However, the premier could still save his credibility by scrutinising the footage and making a final decision that is informed and credible,” said Hlabisa.
ANC provincial spokesperson Nhlakanipho Ntombela said the party is holding a provincial executive committee and provincial working committee meeting on Monday, and would comment thereafter.
Provincial portfolio committee on health chairperson Nomakiki Majola said what happened was during the MEC’s personal time, it was not held by the Health Department and the MEC, which would not require the committee to conduct an oversight role. She said the same applied to the other attendees who were are not part of the department.
Majola said they know the premier plays oversight over the executive and it concerned the premier than any committee. “It is too private and too personal. It’s difficult for me to have a comment on it.”
The Presidency, the national Health Minister and the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa), had not commented at the time of publication.
Meanwhile, DA spokesperson on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Chris Pappas wrote to speaker Nontembeko Boyce to request that she refer a call on the suspension of provincial Cogta chairperson Zinhle Cele to the Legislature Disciplinary Committee, because they believed she was in breach of her oath of office.
“Cele should be suspended, pending the outcome of a full investigation, after attending the party, and any other incidents where she was involved in marches, protests or incitement thereof.”