Minister of mineral resources and energy Gwede Mantashe has denied that he broke the Covid-19 alert level 3 regulations set by President Cyril Ramaphosa by going ahead with a potential superspreader event in his hometown of Cala this week.
Mantashe confirmed that a two-day wedding celebration had been planned for December 28 and 29 before Ramaphosa’s announcement. The Mantashe wedding took place a day after the national command council on coronavirus took a decision to introduce more restrictions to curb the rising number of Covid-19 infections.
The cabinet — which Mantashe is a member of — then confirmed this decision on the first day of the wedding. Mantashe is also the national chairperson of the ANC. He and other members of the ‘top six’ officials of the ruling party recently took a decision to cancel ANC January 8 celebrations that were due to take place across the country under strict Covid-19 prevention protocols.
However, on Thursday he defended his family’s decision to go ahead with the wedding celebrations. “We made the announcement and invited people a long time ago, so these are not rumours. We advertised this and invited people to a wedding on December 28 and 29. We cut the numbers. When we sent the invitation, it was 100 on indoor event and 250 outdoor, OK. That is what we stuck to.”
He said on the first day of the nuptials, “We were at the reception and at 8 pm, new regulations are released, OK. So when new regulations are released at 8 pm, people are not in front of the television, they are all over the show.”
To manage the situation, Mantashe says the family went to the police in Cala to report that the family was hosting an event. “We said, ‘jongani apha madoda, apha kuneziregulations ezintsha, zingene midnight, sicele nisincedise to manage this thing out of Tuesday.” (Loosely meaning that the family told the police that the regulations were announced at midnight while the event was taking place, can the police insist the family manage the situation the following day).
“And that is what we did,” he said. Mantashe said on the first day of the nuptials following Ramaphosa’s announcement, police in Elliot were asked to stop the event.
“We had to explain to them, educate the police that the president has announced, effectively from midnight, you are here at 9pm, you don’t know what you want, please go home and the police went home.”
National police spokesperson Brig Vish Naidoo confirmed that Mantashe reported the matter to the police on Tuesday morning. “It’s true, he came there to the police station to report that the wedding was planned and that the wedding had already happened on Monday and there were still people there on Tuesday.”
Naidoo said Mantashe arrived at the police station between 8 am and 8.30 am. “He said, ‘listen, these people are still here. The wedding already happened yesterday and the president made the pronouncement last night and I have these people.’ So we said ‘not a problem, they must be dispersed’ and then they dispersed them.”
Naidoo said no-one was arrested. “Together with his protectors and the police, we made sure that we managed the situation. But he did inform us that if we find a lot of people here, it was because of the wedding yesterday. During the day as the people were leaving, there were reported being made that there is a gathering.”
Naidoo said the police did not know about the event until Tuesday when Mantashe reported the matter. “We went there to make sure that the people had been dispersed because people were calling us as well. They were not calling to complain, they were calling to say there is a gathering.”
Mantashe believes he did not break the law. When asked if the event carried on on Tuesday despite Ramaphosa’s announcement, he said, “It did not carry on Tuesday. On Tuesday is the day that we were managing people out of the event …”
On whether he requested his guests to leave, he said, “Families were together, one is from Polokwane and one is from Cala and people in general think that you can just tell people from Polokwane that, ‘hey listen, get into your combi now, the president has just announced … you don’t deal with people like that because it is a lifelong relationship, OK.”
Mantashe added: “ (Cogta minister) Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma) asked South Africans to conclude whichever planned events and not plan new events. I did not have a new wedding on Tuesday, I had one wedding which was supposed to be two days and on second day we had to manage it out.”
When asked again if he did not break the law, he said, “That is why I made sure that 8am the next day I was at the police station talking to the station commander, explaining the reality that faced me and asked them to help me manage that thing out.
“The police came here and they never arrested anyone, they never told people to stop anything, they worked with us to ask people in groups to leave.”
When asked if there was any alcohol consumed on Tuesday, “Even on Monday, mna (me), I don’t consume alcohol.” Mantashe maintained that South Africans would understand. “I have broken no rules, that is why I worked with the police. I did not work with the police so that I can break the rules. I worked with the police to protest the rules.”
Mantashe’s son, Buyambo Mantashe, said, “On December 28 2020 I was getting married to a lady from Limpopo who has asked not to be identified for her privacy. My wedding took place at Elliot under the old level one regulations which were adjusted on December 14.
“On December 29 we engaged the Cala police station to inform them that the bride’s and groom’s family will be concluding the ritual that had started on the 28th. I am not aware of any police that came on the 28th and on the 29th we informed the police and their presence was through our engagement with them. All Covid-19 regulations were followed as announced by the president on December 14,” he said.