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Partying Health MEC escapes being fired for flouting COVID-19 regulations

KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu has been fined half a month’s salary, handed a warning letter and ordered by her boss premier Sihle Zikalala to apologise within seven days for breaching COVID-19 lockdown regulations during her “surprise” party last week, where face masks were literally thrown out the window. There had been numerous calls for her to be fired.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in KwaZulu-Natal on Monday (30 August 2021) laid charges against Simelane-Zulu for defying COVID-19 regulations. The party's Francois Rodgers said: “Charges were laid by the spokesperson on heath and we now call upon the police to investigate the matter and investigate it thoroughly and ensure that justice prevails.”

“The MEC fraudulently disregarded the regulation at her birthday party and she is supposed to be the face of the fight against Covid-19 in KwaZulu-Natal, especially now that we are in the third wave and I see thousands of new infections every day, excluding hundreds of deaths. So the Premier has completely failed, says the Democratic Alliance's KZN spokesperson on Health, Dr Rishigen Viranna, told  East Coast Radio.

The Economic Freedom Fighters' Vusi Khoza says there should be harsher consequences. “We are the EFF we said she must be suspended and be removed from her position and we don't believe the sentence fits the crime.”

The Inkatha Freedom Party's spokesperson Ncamisile Nkwanyana shares the sentiments. “We want to see him giving her a strong punishment for what she has done. She's the face of this province under her department.

Provincial Treasury has been instructed to ensure that at the next payment cycle, 50% of the MEC’s salary is docked and paid to NGOs that fight COVID-19 in the Amajuba District Municipality.

Zikalala demanded answers from Simelane-Zulu after TimesLIVE published a video and photos of the MEC partying with friends on her birthday, where there was no social distancing or wearing of masks.

According to IOL, he said Simelane “deeply regrets the failure by some of the attendees, including herself, at that time, to wear masks, during this short performance during dining”.

“It is particularly important that members of the provincial executive lead by example, especially as we battle this deadly disease,” said Zikalala. He said Simelane's circumstances may have "been beyond her control", but “the public still have expectations that we should lead them ethically. That is the burden we carry as public office bearers”.

“What is clear in both the video and the photographs is that the patrons, including Simelane herself, are not wearing masks and do not appear to be practising social distancing."

At the time, Simelane-Zulu said the gathering was a “surprise”, and she regretted that there was some flouting of COVID-19 regulations.

SA Medical Association spokesperson Dr Angelique Coetzee says the MEC is meant to set an example – adding her actions contradict the measures around Covid-19 safety. “If it was any other country, most probably she would have lost her job … I am also of the opinion you need to be held responsible. You need to be accountable for what you did.

“You cannot just simply say you didn't know and it was something that the unit was a surprise party. Even if that is true, you should have immediately stopped it.”


East Coast Radio report – Actions against Simelane-Zulu don’t fit the crime (Open access)


IOL article – Simelane escapes with fine for flouting Covid-19 regulations (Open access)


TimesLIVE article – Partying KZN MEC fined half her salary for flouting Covid-19 rules (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Partying KZN Health MEC ‘regrets’ throwing face masks out the window


Continued high turnover of provincial health MECs


Face masks plus distancing increases COVID transmission control — Modelling study


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