Bheki Cele orders probe into Mpumalanga premier’s failure to wear face mask at Jackson Mthembu’s funeral

Police Minister Bheki Cele has asked police to investigate the alleged conduct of Mpumalanga premier, Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane, who was seen on national TV not wearing a face mask in public at the official funeral of the minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu in Emalahleni, Mpumalanga on Sunday.

This matter has also been brought to his attention on various social media platforms by concerned South Africans, the police ministry said in a statement on Sunday evening.

“The wearing of masks in public is a 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 said.

“Wearing a face mask in public was mandatory for everyone under the adjusted Covid-19 alert level three lockdown regulations. Any person who failed to comply with a verbal instruction by a law enforcement officer to wear a mask, committed an offence and was, upon conviction, liable to a fine or a period of imprisonment not exceeding six months or both,” he said.

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.
No one said, Premier, or comrade, please wear your mask.

— Xhanti Payi (@XhantiPayi) January 24, 2021

Mtsweni-Tsipane  has since apologised for a “momentary lapse” after she was caught on camera not wearing a face mask during the funeral of Mthembu. Her spokesperson, Sibongile Mkani-Mpolweni later said the premier had been “oblivious to the fact” that her mask had fallen off.

“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,” 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. 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,” she added.

Mkani-Mpolweni said the premier has extended an apology to the people of Mpumalanga for that momentary lapse where the premier’s mask had fallen off without her being aware of it. She said the premier emphasised the importance of adhering to the Covid-19 regulations and that she continues to urge the people of Mpumalanga to constantly wear masks, practice social distancing and sanitise or wash hands frequently.

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