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Police Minister Cele orders probe into Mpumalanga premier’s failure to wear face mask

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Police Minister Bheki Cele has ordered the SAPS to investigate why Mpumalanga premier Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane was not wearing a face mask in public on Sunday.

A man in a blue jacket and a black hat and wearing a face mask crouching under an umbrella while talking to a motorist.
Police Minister Bheki Cele (under umbrella). File photo: ANA/Nokuthula Mbatha

PRETORIA, January 24 (ANA) – 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 minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu in Emalahleni in 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,” Cele said.

“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.

Earlier on Sunday, Mtsweni-Tsipane apologised for a “momentary lapse” after she was caught on camera not wearing a face mask during the funeral of Mthembu.

Mtsweni-Tsipane’s spokesperson later said the premier had been “oblivious to the fact” that her mask had fallen off.

Social media users condemned the premier after the images showing her without a mask were widely circulated on different platforms.

“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,” Mtsweni-Tsipane’s spokesperson Sibongile 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”, she said.

“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,” said Mkani-Mpolweni.

“The premier has extended an apology to the people of Mpumalanga for that momentary lapse wherein her mask fell without her being aware or conscious of it. The premier has emphasised the importance of adhering to the Covid-19 regulations and continues to urge the people of Mpumalanga to constantly wear masks, practice social distancing, and sanitise or wash hands frequently,” she said.

– African News Agency (ANA)