State prosecutors have declined to prosecute government officials and other mourners who violated lockdown regulations by gathering outside anti-apartheid struggle stalwart Andrew Mlangeni’s home, arguing that the event was spontaneous.
Police minister Bheki Cele has revealed in a written parliamentary reply that the Orlando police station investigated a criminal case of contravention of the Disaster Management Act regulating the number of attendees at a funeral.
A case was opened at the station on July 30, two days after scores of people gathered in the street outside Mlangeni’s home to welcome his body from the mortuary, contravening lockdown regulations.
Cele said the case was presented to the senior state prosecutor at the Orlando magistrate’s court who declined to prosecute, remarking: “The alleged event was spontaneous. The suspect did not invite the mourners and had no control over them”.
Cele was responding to EFF MP Ringo Madlingozi who wanted to know whether the minister had taken any steps against government officials who violated the lockdown regulations when they attended Mlangeni’s funeral service.
The spontaneity excuse was also used by transport minister Fikile Mbalula after a public outcry over the gathering, with scores of people taking to social media to question whether leaders were exempt from abiding by the law, which allows for up to 50 people to gather at funerals.
At the time, Mbalula said the people who surrounded Mlangeni’s coffin had “erupted spontaneously”.
“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.
“They [people] spontaneously erupted and joined the line. When the coffin arrived, people moved forward. The marshals tried to push them back,” said Mbalula.
In a separate response, Cele revealed that 466 people were arrested for convening illegal gatherings in Khayelitsha between March 27 and August 21. The gatherings were related to illegal land invasions in that township during the lockdown.
DA MP Noko Masipa wanted details of arrests due to illegal gatherings in Khayelitsha and to know how many people were arrested and charged for destruction of property.