The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) says Radio and TV personality Somizi Mhlongo will face an internal investigation over his utterances concerning the extension of the lockdown.

A few hours before President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the national lockdown would be extended by a further two weeks, Mhlongo said on social media that it would be extended, adding that Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula had told him so.

Mbalula has now laid a charge against Mhlongo at the Sandton Police Station, north of Johannesburg, for what he describes as a contravention of the government lockdown regulations regarding misinformation and name dropping.

In an Instagram Live video by Metro FM radio host Dineo Ranaka, Somizi Mhlongo was heard saying the lockdown would be extended, saying the Minister Fikile Mbalula had told him so.

The video was shared widely on social media just a few hours before President Cyril Ramaphosa officially announced the two-week extension of the national lockdown. Mhlongo has since apologised to the minister.

“I didn’t think it was gonna be a big deal, but I realised that now the President has just announced the extension, it’s gonna seem like I knew about it. I’m just like you. I did not know about it I was just guessing and I think like everybody else has had the suspicion that it was going to be extended and we hoped vhele it was gonna be extended. So, I’d like to apologise to Fikile, the Honourable Minister for making a joke like that and I’d like to apologise to anyone else who might have been offended by it. It was just a joke, and a bad joke. So I hope you guys accept my apology,” says Somizi.

Mbalula says even though he accepted Mhlongo’s apology, as a cabinet Minister, he has to also obey the lockdown rules.

“Something was said about me when I was not present and it’s god direct bearing on the regulations in terms of breaking the law. If you suggest that lockdown will be extended and that a cabinet minister will actually have done that it is breaking the regulations of the disaster management. Because that information could have gone and have dire consequences even before the president speech because you look at it in the sense that that information how it was released it was meant to be disruptive,” says Mbalula.

Mbalula, however, says he does not have any personal issues with Mhlongo.

“People will ask a question, so if Somizi has apologised and you have accepted the apology what do you want, why do you come to the police station? Because I am enjoined by the constitution to serve and protect the state secrets. I can’t account for what happened, if it was a joke it was a bad joke. I have no issues against Mr Mhlongo, he has been a good friend of mine but I can’t give the impression that I mix business with pleasure,” explains Mbalula.

Internal investigation

Mhlongo will also face an internal investigation at the SABC. Spokesperson Mmoni Seapolelo says the public broadcaster regrets the incident.

“Although Mr Mhlongo-Motaung’s utterances were not part of the broadcast of his programme on the station, we would like to put it on record that we do not tolerate any behaviour that is in contravention with the Government’s regulations under the Disaster Management Act on Fake News and information peddling. In line with our internal processes, we will also engage Mr Mhlongo-Motaung, investigate the matter and will be guided by our policies on an appropriate action to be taken,” says Seapolelo.

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