Mpumalanga premier apologises for not wearing mask at Mthembu funeral
Pretoria – Mpumalanga Premier Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane on Sunday apologised for a “momentary lapse” after she was caught on camera not wearing a face mask during the official funeral of minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu in Emalahleni.
However, Police Minister General Bheki Cele said he had spoken to the National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole to launch an investigation into the conduct of the premier.
Mtsweni-Tsipane’s spokesperson said the premier had been “oblivious to the fact” that her mask had fallen off.
Social media users condemned the premier after the photos showing her without a mask were widely circulated on different platforms.
If a picture ever spoke a thousand words, here is one. Here is a leader, under an ANC umbrella, literally, and completely oblivious to the conditions around her.— Xhanti Payi (@XhantiPayi) January 24, 2021
No one said, Premier, or comrade, please wear your mask. pic.twitter.com/Uy9GmKBFto
“The premier notes the images circulating on social media wherein the premier is seen without a mask as prescribed by the state of disaster regulation aimed at combating the spread of Covid-19,” Mtsweni-Tsipane’s spokesperson Sibongile Mkani-Mpolweni said.
When the premier arrived at the cemetery, “and disembarking from her vehicle, the premier’s mask was damaged and the premier was oblivious of the fact that it had fallen off”, she said.
“The premier was of the belief that the mask was intact as had been the case throughout the proceedings. The premier’s aides promptly sought a replacement mask which the premier utilised for the rest of the proceedings,” said Mkani-Mpolweni.
“The premier has extended an apology to the people of Mpumalanga for that momentary lapse wherein her mask fell without her being aware or conscious of it. The premier has emphasised the importance of adhering to the Covid-19 regulations and continues to urge the people of Mpumalanga to constantly wear masks, practice social distancing, and sanitise or wash hands frequently,” she said.
On Sunday evening Cele said he was concerned by the conduct of the premier as the wearing of masks in public is non-negotiable.
“If South Africa wants to beat this invisible enemy which is Covid-19, we simply can’t let down our guard down. This is why I have spoken to the National Commissioner of the South African Police Service, General Khehla Sitole to look into the matter of the premier and an investigation must be conducted and necessary action must be taken,” Cele concluded.
Cele reminded all South Africans that the wearing of a mask in public is mandatory for every person, under the adjusted alert Level 3 Lockdown regulations.
“Any person who fails to comply with a verbal instruction by a law enforcement officer, to wear a mask, commits an offence, and is, upon conviction, liable to a fine or a period of imprisonment, not exceeding six months or both.”
On Saturday night, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced that the number of positive Covid-19 cases in South Africa has increased by 12 271 to 1 404 839.
African News Agency/ANA