KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane. File Picture.
KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane. File Picture.

‘Slap on the wrist’ for KZN Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane slated

By Vernon Mchunu Time of article published Aug 30, 2021

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DURBAN - THE “slap on the wrist” imposed by KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala on Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane for defying Covid-19 protocols has set tongues wagging, and has ruffled some feathers.

The IFP said it was appalled by Zikalala’s findings, saying they indicated that he had not seen the footage, and the DA called for the premier to step down for demonstrating unethical leadership.

Video footage went viral on social media showing Simelane celebrating her birthday and appearing without wearing a mask or practising social distancing.

Announcing his sanction at the weekend, Zikalala said the MEC regretted the failure of guests at the party, including herself, to wear masks.

“The MEC must within seven days issue a public apology for having been at an event where there was flouting of

Covid-19 regulations,” he said.

The provincial Treasury had been instructed to ensure that, at the next payment cycle, 50% of the MEC’s salary would be docked and diverted to non-government organisations involved in the fight against Covid19 in the Amajuba District, where the MEC was a champion of service delivery, said Zikalala.

“We are appalled by Premier Zikalala’s findings and recommendations, which are based on falsified information. These findings underestimate the intelligence of the people of KwaZulu-Natal,” said IFP president Velenkosini Hlabisa in a statement.

“This further brings into question whether the premier viewed the footage in circulation, which portrays MEC Simelane in a compromised state. It is untruthful to say that she didn’t have a mask on because she was eating. The video footage clearly shows her on the dance floor without a mask, and without observing a safe social distance,” Hlabisa said.

“We believe MEC Simelane is further undermining 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.

“The premier 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.”

DA chief whip Zwakele Mncwango asked: “How can the premier accept that it was a lunch event when it is clear that it was at night with lights shining? How can the premier stand in public and say he has accepted the MEC’s report that they were not wearing masks because they were eating, when in fact it is clear that they were not seated and there is no food in sight?

“It is clear that the premier has prioritised factional politics by avoiding taking adequate action against the MEC. This shows a lack of leadership. There is also the issue of morality, since the MEC and the premier are supposed to be leading by example to promote the fight against the spread of the pandemic,” he said.

Mncwango said announcing the donation of part of a salary to an NGO fighting the pandemic should not be a punishment for wrongdoing, but should be promoted to be undertaken under normal circumstances.

University of Zululand political analyst Professor Sipho Seepe described the sanction as “more of a symbolic gesture than a punishment”.

“My sense is that no sanction will satisfy anyone. The premier would have to look at the MEC’s conduct within the context of her performance. If she performs well in her portfolio, taking a stronger position would serve little purpose,” said Seepe.

Asked for comment after addressing a media briefing on Covid-19 in the province yesterday, Zikalala said he would not “entertain opportunistic advances to blow the matter of the MEC out of proportion”.

Simelane said she would not comment further, saying the matter was now “sub judice”.

“I reserve the right not to comment, since the matter is now undergoing a legal process,” she said.

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THE MERCURY

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