Police Minister Bheki Cele has repeatedly denied paying a personal visit last Monday to the KwaZulu-Natal home of his Cabinet colleague, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, in contravention of the regulations.
Cele was responding to media queries after he was captured on video, visiting Nzimande's KwaDambuza residence.
Early that day, the media waited for more than an hour at Plessislaer police station after receiving an invitation to watch Cele at work in Pietermaritzburg, where there had been concerns of poor compliance with Level 4 lockdown regulations.
Upon Cele's eventual arrival, logistics were laid out and it was revealed that he would conduct a walkabout at two malls - Kwamabulala Mall and the popular Edenvale Mall.
The media were asked to wait for Cele's arrival at Kwamabulala Mall. While there, however, News24 and a handful of other media saw the minister's convoy scurry past the mall. They followed the convoy, only to arrive at Nzimande's home, where Cele was warmly embraced.
After the brief visit, Cele walked back to his convoy and News24 seized the opportunity to ask the minister what the purpose of his visit was. But the usually camera-friendly Cele was silent. Instead, he directed us to his nearby spokesperson, Brigadier Mathapelo Peters.
"This is my boss," he said, as he pointed to Peters.
Peters first said the provincial spokesperson had directed the media to meet Cele at the Kwamabulala Mall. Later, she said: "We were just responding to a tip-off..."
Last Tuesday, when Cele visited the home of slain Hambanathi teenager Andile "Bobo" Mbuthu, who was allegedly killed in an alcohol-related incident earlier this month, he was again asked about the visit to Nzimande's home.
He responded: "I would have loved to have visited him. If he was just not in Pretoria, I would have visited him. But he was in Pretoria. How could I go to Dambuza and visit Blade when he is in Pretoria? The answer is simple, I did not visit Blade."
News24 then pressed him for an explanation.
But he answered: "That's not Blade, that is the home of Blade. The question is, did you visit Blade? I did not visit Blade because he was in Pretoria.
"I was working in the area and had a few houses, dealing with the issue of Covid-19, and Blade's home was one of those houses."
Responding to News24's questions on the visit, Peters offered a lengthy explanation.
She said Cele visited at least two specific residential areas, where there had been reports of "business as usual with little police visibility".
She said Cele was in KwaDambuza and "walked a couple of streets, where the minister stopped several times to engage community members".
Peters said that, in relation to the tip-offs she mentioned previously, both police officials and Cele regularly received tip-offs from the public.
"It is from these tip-offs that a number of arrests have been effected for various serious contraventions of the Covid-19 Disaster Management [Act] regulations."
She added that, in response to similar tip-offs, Cele stopped to engage with residents of two homes on the same street as the Nzimande homestead, "where the minister also made a stop".
She said he proceeded to the next street, then to a few malls and to other operations, where he "continued to engage with members of the public".
One of Cele's stops
"It is important to emphasise that there was no personal visit, but rather one of a number of stops made by Minister Cele."
However, Peters failed to answer News24's questions on whether any arrests or formal investigations arose from the tip-off.
She said law-abiding citizens, who wish to remain anonymous, have confidence in Cele and send tip-offs knowing "that their information will be acted on and their identities not compromised".
"It is for this reason that police can never disclose or confirm where and how tip-offs are sourced from."
She also declined to answer why normal policing channels were not followed by those in Nzimande's home.
Nzimande's spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi said the minister was "aware that Minister Cele was on a walkabout in Pietermaritzburg and passed at Minister Nzimande's parental house after visiting numerous houses in the area to monitor compliance of the lockdown regulations".
"Minister Nzimande has no problem about the visit because Minister Cele was performing his responsibilities in the area and many other places."