KwaZulu-Natal Premier, Sihle Zikalala, has instructed the Provincial Treasury to deduct 50% of Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane’s salary at the next payment cycle, after attending an event where there was alleged flouting of COVID-19 regulations.
This after photographs and videos emerged on social media on 21 August 2021, claiming to have been taken at a gathering allegedly hosted by Simelane.
In the footage, the MEC is portrayed in a celebratory mood alongside a number of other guests, and in both the video and the photographs, the patrons, including Simelane, were not wearing masks and do not appear to be practising social distancing.
During a media briefing on Saturday, Zikalala said that upon receiving the reports, he requested a full report, which has been duly submitted by the MEC.
“From the report, the following facts are clear: it is the position of the MEC that the images were taken at the venue of a surprise venue for her birthday lunch; the MEC also states that the event was held at a venue which was well-ventilated and which had the appropriate social distancing, and that guests were fully aware and were regularly reminded by both the master of ceremony and the MEC to adhere to the COVID-19 regulations.
“The MEC states that the [gathering] was attended by a maximum of 36 people at a venue meant for 200 people and therefore provided enough circulation in compliance with the regulations. With regard to the images, the MEC further states that the images were captured during the period when the patrons were consuming food,” Zikalala said.
After receiving Simelane’s report, Zikalala also had time to discuss the matter.
“Having looked at the facts presented to me, it is my considered view as Premier of KwaZulu-Natal that as leaders, we have the burden of providing ethical leadership,” said Zikalala.
While acknowledging that the circumstances that landed the MEC in the situation may have been beyond her control, the Premier emphasised that the public still have the expectation that, as public office bearers, they should lead them ethically.
“This does not by any stretch of the imagination imply that public office bearers and politicians are not infallible. The MEC has shown a high level of contrition and she did not go out of her way to violate COVID-19,” the Premier said.
Leading by example
The Premier noted that KwaZulu-Natal is in the midst of a deadly COVID-19 pandemic, which has devastated the entire economy of the country and province.
“As we speak, we are engaged in a massive vaccination drive as we battle the effects of the third wave and the advent of the Delta variant of the Coronavirus. At the centre of the battle against the virus is the call to the people of KwaZulu-Natal to adopt the non-pharmaceutical preventative measures.
“This includes sanitising or washing hands regularly, social distancing and the wearing of masks. In addition, we are on a mass campaign to get the people of KwaZulu-Natal to vaccinate in order to help South Africa achieve the appropriate numbers to attain population immunity.”
Zikalala said the MEC for Health has been charged with the responsibility to lead the efforts of the province in the mission to provide a better health for all.
“In addition, the MEC has been given the responsibility to champion the fight against COVID-19. The MEC is therefore at the chest of the war and is expected to lead by example at all times.
“The MEC must within seven days issue a public apology for having been at an event where there was flouting of COVID-19 regulations. The MEC has received a warning from the Premier; [and] we have instructed Provincial Treasury to ensure that at the next payment cycle, 50% of the MEC’s salary is docked and paid to NGOs that fight against COVID-19 in the district where the MEC is a champion in Amajuba District Municipality,” Zikalala said. – SAnews