WATCH | 'Partying health MEC' throws Covid-19 safety out the window — but says protocols were mostly followed

KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu may have landed herself in hot water after it emerged on Monday that she allegedly hosted a party on Sunday that  breached Covid-19 protocols.

Simelane-Zulu seemingly hosted the party where there was loud music, singing and dancing with no mask wearing or social distancing just moments after publicly warning against Covid-19 complacency as the infection rate in the province began to surge.

Videos and pictures of Simelane-Zulu entertaining guests, including dancing and hugging many of them while not wearing masks, were leaked to TimesLIVE — calling into question her ability to practise what she preached to curb the spread of the killer respiratory disease.

Two days ago Simelane-Zulu raised concern about people not adhering to non-pharmaceutical measures such as wearing face masks, washing their hands with soap and water or hand sanitiser, and practising social distancing. But at the party, the leaked videos showed Simelane-Zulu and her guests throwing the very same non-pharmaceutical measures out the window.

The MEC accepted an invitation to a purported meeting, which turned out to be a surprise lunch for her birthday

The office of KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication and their response will be included in this story as soon as it is obtained. Responding to the backlash, Simelane-Zulu said the gathering was a “surprise”, and said she regretted that there was some flouting of Covid-19 regulations.

However, she said health protocols were mostly followed, adding that she even made a comment to this effect as she arrived.

“The MEC accepted an invitation to a purported meeting, which turned out to be a surprise lunch for her birthday,” she said.

Simelane-Zulu said the lunch was attended by 36 people and took place at a private venue. It was organised and attended by her close family and friends.

Attempting to minimise the impact, the MEC said there were two main tables at the “sizeable and well-ventilated venue”, with some of the attendees opting to be seated at the veranda.

Explaining the absence of masks and social distancing, she said: “There was a time during a brief musical performance where the guests stood up and danced, unfortunately without wearing their masks, as they were still eating.

“The MEC deeply regrets the failure by some of the attendees, including herself, at that time, to wear masks, during this short performance during dining.”

Simelane-Zulu said she will be submitting a formal report to Zikalala regarding the incident, adding that she remains committed to fighting the spread of Covid-19 in the province.

Two days ago, this is what the MEC said about rising Covid-19 figures in her province: “We know that, perhaps because we talk about Covid-19 on a daily basis, people may feel like they’re growing ‘tired’ of consuming this information. In the past two weeks, we have seen an exponential growth in the number of new daily infections. This is extremely concerning.”

DA chief whip in the provincial legislature Zwakele Mncwango on Monday wrote to Zikalala, calling for immediate action against Simelane-Zulu.

“If the MEC of health, no less, does not believe the rules apply to her, then she cannot continue to lead or be the face of KZN’s campaign against the pandemic,” he said.

“She is not fit to hold office if she cannot lead by example. The DA believes that this action has again placed the entire cabinet and provincial government in disrepute.

“Premier, if this is, as said, a birthday celebration for the MEC, and if you are serious about accountability, we strongly request that you take action against the MEC immediately. We call on you to conduct an investigation into the conduct of the MEC and to report back to the premier's portfolio committee within seven days,” Mncwango added.

Zikalala announced last week that the province had entered the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

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