Police Minister Bheki Cele has raised concerns over the failure by police officers to take action against Mpumalanga Premier Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane after she was caught not wearing a mask at the funeral service of late Cabinet minister Jackson Mthembu on Sunday in Emalahleni.
“The police were there when the act of lawlessness [and] crime was committed and they did not act,” Cele said in an interview with the SABC’s Morning Live programme on Wednesday.
Mtsweni-Tsipane sparked public criticism when she was captured on television without a mask on, which was in violation of lockdown regulation that require the mandatory wearing of face masks in public.
The premier, who now has a criminal record, has subsequently apologised and paid an admission of guilt fine for violating the Disaster Management Act.
Cele said he was also taken aback to see the premier on television not wearing her mask. He said he has already received a report from Mpumalanga police commissioner Bethuel Mondli Zuma into the incident and he was now awaiting the final report on the police’s conduct.
“The amount of money that was determined by the magistrate has been paid,” Cele said. “The premier opted to pay the admission of guilt, wrote the statement of guilt and they took her fingerprints. The police have done all the processes that they were supposed to have done.”
The minister had ordered an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Mtsweni-Tsipane’s failure to wear mask, saying the wearing of masks in public is not negotiable.
On the police’s conduct at the funeral, Cele said they “clearly ignored the law that was supposed to be enforced”.
“The investigation is twofold. Why the premier did not wear a mask in public as regulated, and secondly is why the police didn’t act because they were there, including the general that she greeted,” he said.