News | Opinion
When Mpumalanga premier Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane made the unacceptable blunder of walking into the funeral of
late minister Jackson Mthembu with nothing on her face but makeup and a smile, it was clear that protecting herself and others by wearing a mask was the last thing on her mind.
We all hate wearing masks and often find ways of adjusting them in order to inhale air with ease.
And once we forget to put it on our faces as we step out in public, we are immediately reminded by seeing others protected.
But not Mtsweni-Tsipane. Everyone at Mthembu’s funeral adhered to that rule except her.
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According to her spokesperson, Sibongile Mkami-Mpolweni, she was not aware her mask had fallen off her face.
It seems the masked man covering her with an umbrella as she walked in was not a blatant reminder, neither were all the senior officials and members of the Mthembu family who sat a few metres apart in the large hall, weeping behind their masks.
Her appalling actions had to be justified once the country started expressing outrage at her negligence. Her spin doctor had to do some spinning.
The reason she was not wearing a mask was apparently because it “fell without her being aware or conscious of it”, her spokesperson said.
The spin was that upon the premier’s arrival at the cemetery, her mask was damaged and she was “oblivious” to the fact that it was no longer on her face.
“The premier was of the belief that the mask was intact as had been the case throughout the proceedings.”
But what Mkami-Mpolweni did not consider was that there was live video footage seen by thousands of South Africans, who had tuned in to watch the sending off of Mthembu, showing the premier walking while clinging to her clutch bag, along with a surgical mask.
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Footage also showed Deputy President David Mabuza with his black mask on, signalling to the premier to adhere to the regulations and wear a mask.
Even he was seemingly ignored as the premier walked back to her seat, mouth and nose exposed.
Video footage also showed her walking up to the podium with a surgical mask comfortably sitting on her face.
She walked off with it in her hand, making one wonder at which point this mask “fell off”.
Yet her spokesperson wanted the country to believe her boss had made a human error when it was clear she only erred in thinking she could get away with disobeying the rules in the presence of the president, his deputy and the entire country.
But is it the duty of a spokesperson to defend the wrongdoings of their bosses?
One wonders if the excuse of forgetting to wear a mask was something she spun herself, or if her boss insisted she tell this to the public.
And when Mtsweni-Tsipane eventually admitted guilt this week, handing herself over to the police and paying a fine, the one person left with egg on their face was Mkami-Mpolweni.
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