The ANC has come under fire over the alleged flouting of Covid-19 lockdown funeral protocols during the special official funeral of stalwart Andrew Mlangeni.
An uproar ensued when the live broadcast of the event showed that the funeral lasted longer than the prescribed two hours under the current lockdown regulations, that it did not comply with social distancing regulations, and that there were more than 50 mourners in attendance.
Members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) were also seen standing close to each other, smoking and with masks hanging on their chins, this while sales of cigarettes and tobacco products are prohibited.
Police Minister Bheki Cele said recently that smokers would have to produce receipts if caught smoking.
However, national police spokesperson Vish Naidoo said on Wednesday: “Smoking isn’t illegal. It’s the buying and selling that’s illegal.”
According to the lockdown regulations, attendance at a funeral is limited to 50 people and all health protocols and social distancing must be adhered to at all times.
Funerals and burial services are also supposed to last no longer than two hours.
The Star’s photographer Timothy Bernard said that there were more than 50 mourners.
The official programme also indicated that the funeral would start at 8am and would run until after 12pm. Mlangeni was buried at around 12.30pm.
“There were more than 50 cars, more than 50 military and police personnel, there were more than 50 family and friends, more than 20 politicians and media personnel, so the numbers were big,” Bernard said.
DA spokesperson Solly Malatsi said it was clear that the rest of society had to abide by the regulations while government officials abided by a different set of rules.
“It clearly shows that they somehow believe that they are exempt from the same laws that they are advocating and expecting the rest of society to adhere to.
“They have just exposed the hypocrisy and the sense of untouchableness of these leaders,” he said.
Political analyst Xolani Dube said citizens should not be surprised that the regulations were not adhered to because the government proved that it was above the law.
“The laws of this country are for the poor and the condemned but not for the black elite. The black elite are above the law,” he said.
The Young Communist League of South Africa issued a statement expressing its disappointment at events surrounding Mlangeni’s funeral.
“The state should have known and understood that he belonged to ordinary South Africans and as such, it was obvious that many citizens would want to tender him a befitting farewell. It was supposed to be the role of the state to ensure compliance and adherence to the regulations,” it said.
“Much as state funerals are different from all other funerals in society, regulations should equally allow a space for such gatherings to be treated differently, which will ensure greater compliance to the regulations, health and safety standards, and not deter the moral objective.”
Many observers also commented on the lack of social distancing on Tuesday when Mlangeni’s body was brought to his Soweto home.
Responding to the criticism, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said the Dube community “spontaneously erupted” and joined the gathering.
“The reality is that we were less than 10 (from the ANC). The ANC would not gather people and address them in the environment of the coronavirus,” he said.
Mbalula added that the “spontaneity” of the community was a reflection of the kind of person the country was bidding farewell to.
Malatsi added: “Government ministers are expected to abide by the same regulations as a South African living in a township in Mdantsane who could not attend the funeral of their loved one because they were respecting the laws”