Mpumalanga premier, Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane, has come under fire after she was seen without a mask during the funeral of Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu, in Emalahleni, Mpumalanga, on Sunday afternoon.

The Premier has issued a statement, apologising for what she described as a “brief moment” of not wearing a mask during Mthembu’s funeral.

ANC bids farewell to Jackson Mphikwa Mthembu:

Mtsweni-Tsipane says she was not aware that her mask fell off when she stepped out of her vehicle.

ANC National Spokesperson, Pule Mabe, says the party is encouraged by the apology.

“I can tell you now that the premier having known her myself is not someone who can deliberately come out, comrade Refilwe as premier of MP will never engage in that kind of activity deliberately to undermine the compact that government is trying to build with the people and we are quiet encourage that she’s come out and owned up to that kind of an error,” he says.

However, Police Minister, General Bheki Cele, is not that reconciliatory.

Expressing concern at the Premier’s conduct – the Minister reminded South Africans that the wearing of masks in public under the level 3 lockdown is non-negotiable.

“If South Africa wants to beat this invisible enemy which is COVID-19, we simply can’t let down 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,” says Cele.

Cele says 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.