Amid the public backlash over the failure by Mpumalanga Premier Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane to wear a face mask on Sunday at the funeral service of late Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu, a video has emerged on social media clearly showing that the premier was asked to wear her mask.
A video posted on Twitter by the SABC’s foreign editor, Sophie Mokoena, shows that Mtsweni-Tsipane was asked by one of the mourners at the funeral to wear her mask but she did not.
— Sophie Mokoena (@Sophie_Mokoena) January 24, 2021
The Police Ministry on Monday reassured South Africans that Police Minister Bheki Cele was taking the investigation into the failure by the premier to wear her face mask in public very seriously.
This after the Cele requested National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole to probe Mtsweni-Tsipane after she was captured on television not wearing her face mask.
The premier has received a lot of criticism from political parties and members of the public calling for her to be arrested or fined, in line with the adjusted level 3 lockdown regulations.
Under the regulations gazetted in December, any person who fails to comply with a verbal instruction by a law-enforcement officer to wear a mask commits a criminal offence, and if they are convicted, are liable to a fine or a period of imprisonment not exceeding six months or both.
Mtsweni-Tsipane apologised for violating the regulations, saying it was an error as her face mask had fallen off, and that she was only without her mask for a brief period.
But Cele’s spokesperson Lirandzu Themba told The Citizen on Monday the minister was looking forward to a thorough investigation into this matter. She said he was waiting for a report from the office of the police commissioner to understand what exactly transpired at the funeral.
“The minister has spoken with the national commissioner and has requested him to institute an investigation into this matter. This investigation needs to be taken up after it’s been concluded,” Themba.
“The minister has tasked the number one cop in the country to look into this matter. I think this also speaks to how seriously he is also taking the matter and also how serious this matter needs to be elevated in terms of investigating it.”
Themba could not give specific timelines on when the minister was expecting the report, but said it should be on his desk “as soon as possible”.
“The minister is very clear that this is a very serious situation. There’s obviously lots of evidence before it. As you know this was captured on national television. We are really hoping that this is done as speedily as possible and that the report is put together also in hurry and made available to the minister as per his request,” she said.
Themba reiterated that the wearing of masks in public was non-negotiable and that the lockdown regulations applied to all South Africans, regardless of political office.
“The minister wants to stress the point that the wearing of masks in public is a non-negotiable and we want to remind South Africans that the wearing of masks in a public place remains mandatory for everyone. It doesn’t matter who you are, everyone is subject to the same law,” she said.