Unmasked Mtsweni-Tsipane admits guilt, buys masks for Emalahleni community

The Mpumalanga Premier also admitted that as a public figure, she should have known better than to not wear a mask in public.

Premier Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane delivers the welcoming remarks during the official service for Minister Jackson Mthembu. Picture: GCIS

JOHANNESBURG - Mpumalanga Premier Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane has handed herself over to the police and admitted guilt for contravening the lockdown regulations by not wearing a mask in public.

In a statement released on Monday evening, Mtsweni-Tsipane said: “To this effect, I have deposited a statement of guilt at the Vosman Police Station in Emalahleni and where I accepted the necessary fine.”

There has been backlash on social media over the premier’s failure to wear a mask at Minister Jackson Mthembu’s funeral on Sunday, even after a police officer and Deputy President David Mabuza told her to cover her face.

She also admitted that she should have known better as a public figure.

“To further demonstrate my remorse, I have bought a 1,000 masks that will be distributed in Emalahleni as part of public education and awareness campaign to demonstrate the serious nature of COVID-19.”

She said she would be going into isolation for 14 days.

“I should have known better as a public figure and more so attending a COVID-19 funeral.”

Police Minister Bheki Cele had already ordered National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole to investigate Mtsweni-Tsipane's conduct.

In her initial statement on Sunday, Mtsweni-Tsipane apologised for not wearing her mask, saying her mask was damaged and somehow fell off without her noticing.

The premier's spokesperson Sibongile Mkami-Mpolweni said: “It does make sense and it does happen. It may not have happened to you, but a lot of people say it has happened to them.”

At some stage, the premier made physical contact with the officer who had warned her to cover her face.

Mkani-Mpolweni said there was nothing wrong with that: “It was not a hug; she touched her shoulder. She could have fallen had she not leaned over.”

Mkani-Mpolweni said that the premier did not break any law: “In the law, there is nothing that says you have to report yourself. The law is clear on this. It says that a police officer or law enforcement officer must warn a person for not wearing a mask and if that person resists, then that person will be arrested. If that person refuses to wear a mask, then that person must be charged. She did not refuse, when the police officer told her, one of the aiders was on the way to fetch the mask.”

A person can be fined up to R1,500 for failing to wear a mask after being warned by a police officer.

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