Thuli Madonsela: It’s possible to forget to wear your mask when consumed by thoughts
Former public protector says police are not allowed to arrest people for not wearing masks without issuing a warning first
Former public protector Thuli Madonsela says it is possible to forget to wear one's mask when “consumed by thoughts,” and that police are not allowed, by law, to arrest anyone for not wearing a face-covering without issuing a warning first.
Madonsela was reacting to calls for the arrest of Mpumalanga premier Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane, who was captured on national TV without a mask during the funeral of minister Jackson Mthembu.
The former public protector further questioned why the premier was not alerted by her team about her mask.
South Africans are required by the state of disaster regulations to wear masks in public to combat the spread of Covid-19, failure to which can result in a fine and/or up to six months in prison.
Madonsela was responding to ANC veteran Darek Hanekom, who tweeted on Monday: “It's quite straightforward actually: we either arrest and charge people for not wearing masks in public or we don't. If we do, politicians certainly can't be exempted. Simple.”
My understanding is that the police must warn a person to wear a mask before considering an arrest. Why was the premier not warned? Even more curious, why did her team not alert her? When consumed by thoughts, it’s possible to temporarily forget to mask. https://t.co/wGETPWpjzS— Prof Thuli Madonsela (@ThuliMadonsela3) January 25, 2021
She added: “If police are arresting people without first asking them to wear a mask, they are breaking the law. The regulations require the police to first warn you to put on a mask.”
Madonsela said the offence is in refusing to adhere to an instruction to wear a mask.
“The offence lies in refusing to obey an instruction to wear a mask. That said, this is an important lesson about all of us doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do and being each other’s keepers. The key to triumphing against Covid-19 is behaviour modification,” she said.
The offense lies in refusing to obey a an instruction to wear a mask. That said this is an important lesson about all of us doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do and being each other’s keepers. The key yo triumphing against #COVID19 is behavior modification pic.twitter.com/cJfy1Kts0g— Prof Thuli Madonsela (@ThuliMadonsela3) January 25, 2021
Some acknowledged the clarification, while others said police don't always issue a verbal warning before conducting arrests.
They argued that the premier did not appear to be “deep in thought”, as she was seen on TV hugging attendees at the funeral, including a police officer, without a mask on.
You forget to wear a mask while attending a funeral of someone who passed away from a virus and the spread of the virus could be minimised by wearing a mask? We are not in week 1 of the pandemic! Subsequent actions other than the "forgot to wear mask" shows lack of regard.— رحيمة (@RaggyRageema) January 25, 2021
She was smiling and hugging people, she really didn't appear to be deep in thought.— Deeterbee (@Dida_21296) January 25, 2021
Seriously? I really hope that you aren't also losing touch with the reality faced by most South Africans. The DP himself warned her, all on tape! I suppose I can refer back to this Tweet and it will stand me in good stead in a court of law should I also forget to wear a mask.— Brenda Barnard (@brendsbarnard) January 25, 2021
Where was all this idea as people were arrested? I mean you should have been preaching this long time ago, no warning have been given to some people instead arrests were being made not ukuth awazi. So now it's this one you tell us about protocol, it's not wrong but strange.— africlassique - (Gatsheni) (@SiyaNdlovu91) January 25, 2021
I understand the clarity Prof much as logic says she should have worn a mask the way the regulation is written which is LAW states that “an enforcement officer needs to give you a verbal warning” first. For the 7 000 or so arrested therein lies their defense then— Tanaka Pasipanodya (@TanazPasi) January 25, 2021
The premier issued an apology on Monday.
“I have noted social media and media reports revealing moments where I was walking around without a mask. I have since reflected deeply on this momentarily lapse, which I regret profusely. I should have known better as a public figure, and more so attending a Covid-19 funeral.
“To this effect, I have deposited a statement of guilt at the Vosman police station in Emalahleni and where I accepted the necessary fine,” she said. Mtsweni-Tsipane said she bought 1,000 masks which will be distributed in Emalahleni as part of a campaign to raise awareness on Covid-19.