Now that Mpumalanga Premier Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane has deposited a statement of guilt for violating lockdown regulations on the compulsory wearing of masks in public, it remains unclear whether the premier will have a criminal record for this.
Mtsweni-Tsipane apologised again on Monday after she was captured on television not wearing her mask at the funeral of late Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu in Emalahleni, Mpumalanga.
In a statement, the premier said she had signed a statement of guilt and paid a fine at Vosman Police Station.
Under the lockdown regulations, 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.
According to associate professor of law at North-West University, Elmien Du Plessis, should an accused person commit an offence and admit to it, a criminal record would apply. But there are some exceptions.
“For instance things like parking tickets or if you get a speeding fine are specifically excluded in law. It’s still an offence but you don’t get a criminal record,” Du Plessis said, adding that the adjusted lockdown regulations under level 3 are not part of the exclusion.
“If she felt that she was not guilty she would have gone to court to state her case,” she said.
Police Minister Bheki Cele had requested National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole to probe Mtsweni-Tsipane for the incident. Cele’s spokesperson Lirandzu Themba told The Citizen on Monday that the minister was taking the investigation very seriously.
“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 said.
It was unclear whether this investigation would continue as attempts to get hold of the South African Police Service (Saps) for comment were unsuccessful.
The government was also considering expunging the criminal records of people who had violated lockdown regulations. This includes people arrested for not wearing masks in public.