Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula has laid charges against Somizi Mhlongo for violating lockdown regulations.
Mhlongo was accused of “name dropping and misinformation” by the minister after the entertainer suggested that he knew in advance that the national coronavirus lockdown was about to be extended.
President Cyril Ramaphosa only announced the two-week extension on Thursday night. Hours earlier, however, in an Instagram live video, Mhlongo was heard telling Metro FM host Dineo Ranaka that he’d been personally informed by Mbalula that the lockdown was going to be extended.
Mbalula reacted on Twitter to the video by stating that, “I did not discuss the lockdown timeline or extension plans with Mr Mhlongo at all whatsoever, my conscience is clear.”
On Friday morning, he laid formal charges against the openly gay SA Idols judge at the Sandton Police Station in front of the media.
Under the lockdown regulations, Mhlongo could face a fine and/or imprisonment for up to six months for publishing a statement “with the intention to deceive any other person about… any measure taken by the government to address Covid-19.”
In a video posted online, Mhlongo apologised to the minister for his comments and claimed that he had just been joking.
“I think it was a bad joke because I was scaring her [Ranaka]… then later I said to her ‘no, no I was joking, I didn’t speak to Fikile and I don’t know anything, I was just scaring you,’ because we are very scared.”
Mhlongo added: “I realise now that the president has announced an extension that it’s going to seem like I knew about it. I’m just like you, I did not know about it, I was just guessing and I think like everybody else I had a feeling that it was gonna be extended.”
Mbalula tweeted that he accepted the apology but still went ahead with filing the charges on Friday, telling the Sowetan that it was not personal.
“Things cannot be joked about willy nilly. I’ve got a good relationship [with Somizi], he’s my friend, but … we must not mix business with pleasure,” said Mbalula.
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