Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane has apologised for what she called a ‘momentary lapse’ on Sunday, after she was seen flouting COVID-19 laws by not wearing a mask at a public gathering. The Mpumalanga Premier, attending the funeral of Jackson Mthembu, has caused a stir online for these antics – and her official explanation has also sparked controversy.
Mtsweni-Tsipane laughed, joked and hugged other attendees at the funeral service, and went for quite some time without wearing a mask. Of course, this is now classed as a criminal offence in a public setting – but it’s unlikely the Mpumalanga Premier will be treated with the same iron-fist which meets ordinary civilians. Her apology reads as follows:
“We note the images circulating on social media, wherein the Premier is seen without a mask as prescribed by the regulations: Upon arrival at the cemetery and disembarking from the vehicle, the Premier’s mask was damaged and she was oblivious that it had fallen off. The Premier believed that the mask was intact, as it had been through the proceedings.”
“Her aides promptly sought a replacement mask, which the premier used for the rest of the funeral. Mtsweni-Tsipane extends an apology for that momentary lapse, where her mask fell without her being aware of it. We emphasise the importance of adhering to the COVID-19 regulations, and urge people to wear masks constantly.”
The office of the Mpumalanga Premier
Police Minister Bheki Cele has revealed that he is ‘concerned’ about the behaviour of Mpumalanga Premier Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane, after she attended the funeral of Jackson Mthembu without wearing a mask. Her conduct enraged South Africa’s online community, and a SAPS investigation will now take place.
On Sunday evening, SAPS confirmed that the wearing of a mask in a public place is non-negotiable. However, Bheki Cele also stressed that those who fail to wear a mask upon verbal instruction could face a stint in jail.
“The Minister of Police, General Bheki Cele is concerned about the alleged conduct of Mpumalanga Premier, Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane who was seen on National TV, not wearing a mask in public. This matter has also been brought to the attention of the Minister on various platforms by concerned South Africans.”
“Minister Cele says not wearing masks in public is ‘non-negotiable’ and would like to remind 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.”
Adding his own separate soundbite, Bheki Cele reminded the public that ‘no-one’ can let their guard down with COVID-19.
“If South Africa wants to beat this invisible enemy which is COVID-19, we simply can’t let 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.”