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Analyst: Maskless Mpumalanga premier shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it

Mpumalanga Premier Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane did not cover her face as per government regulations when she attended the funeral of late Minister Jackson Mthembu on Sunday.

Premier Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane delivers the welcoming remarks during Jackson Mthembu's funeral on Sunday, 24 January 2021. Picture: @GovernmentZA on Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - While the African National Congress (ANC) in Mpumalanga has not discussed Premier Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane’s failure to wear a mask in public, analysts on Wednesday said she had brought the party into disrepute and should not be allowed to get away with the transgression.

Mtsweni-Tsipane did not cover her face as per government regulations when she attended the funeral of late Minister Jackson Mthembu on Sunday.

Following mass public outcry, her office claimed she wasn’t aware that her mask had fallen off.

The premier later admitted guilt and was fined at a police station - she now also has a criminal record.

ANC Mpumalanga spokesperson Sasakane Manzini told Eyewitness News that no one in the party had raised the issue of premier Mtsweni-Tsipane’s conduct.

Mazini said it wasn’t clear if the matter would be discussed.

This is in stark contrast with comments from leaders in the party, including national executive committee member Zizi Kodwa, who described the premier’s actions as an insult to Mthembu.

Mthembu died from COVID-related complications and was one of government’s leading voices on ways to combat it.

Independent analyst Ralph Mathekga said incidents such as that of Mtsweni-Tsipane were are often treated as a misdemeanour in the ANC, but this should be seen as reputational damage.

“Some of us violate and when they violate the police often come out against them, so when you see those who exercise power living carelessly, it actually tells us that in (SA) politics it’s never about leading by example.”

The premier this week said she had bought 1,000 masks for distribution in her province to raise awareness around the dangers of COVID-19.

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