The Eastern Cape Department of Health has described two viral videos of MEC Sindiswa Gomba, including one in which she is alleged to have farted on camera, as the work of "bored and creative social media gurus".
Spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the video clips were evidence of an ongoing character assassination of Gomba, as some people wanted her removed from her position.
In one viral video, filmed at the welcoming ceremony of Cuban health specialists in East London on Sunday, Gomba said: "Premier, I thought they would be really white as they did in the North West province, but I am sure there was a communication breakdown. My apologies to you."
Social media users concluded that Gomba was apologising because most of the 20 Cuban doctors allocated to the province were of mixed race.
Kupelo defended Gomba, saying she had in fact apologised to the premier because the doctors were not dressed for the occasion. According to Kupelo, they were not wearing white coats. He said the doctors were later given the coats.
But social media users would not hear it and slammed Gomba as an "embarrassment".
One wrote, "[T]his ward councillor [sic] must just go."
Another user agreed: "She continues to embarrass the congress movement and our government this comrade to be honest."
One post of the video was viewed more than 2 000 times, attracted close to 100 comments and was shared 75 times.
Another clip, purportedly showing the MEC breaking wind during a TV interview, has also been shared widely.
'Social media gurus'
Kupelo said the sound of the fart was added to the clip in which the MEC was apologising for fluffing a word. The TV crew can attest to this, he said.
"While we appreciate our creatives, we want to call on them to use their special skills not to insult or paint people in a bad light. They must use their freedom of expression well. The 'farting' clips seeks to portray the MEC as someone with zero manners," said Kupelo.
Kupelo said: "The Eastern Cape Health Department condemns with the contempt it deserves the mischievous and malicious video clip that has been circulating, portraying MEC Sindiswa Gomba as a racist. To then edit the clip to suit a certain narrative is malicious and is meant to present MEC as a racist which could not be further from the truth. Some bored and creative social media gurus manipulated the video to suit their misconstrued views."
The spokesperson said the MEC was committed to a non-racist and non-sexist South Africa.
"Until the premier decides he is not happy with the MEC's performance, she will continue working tirelessly in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. It is unfortunate that while we are confronted with this vicious non-discriminatory invisible enemy, we also have to contend with playful adults who are hellbent on tarnishing not only the image of the MEC, but the entire province of the Eastern Cape."
This is the second time Gomba has had to defend herself in less than a month.
At the end of April, the MEC was heard saying "andidikwe" (meaning "I'm fed up") during a virtual meeting with Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.
The gaffe led to several calls for Gomba to resign or be fired.
In the department's latest statement, Kupelo called on the public to help fight and stop the spread of the virus. In the Eastern Cape, 2 052 people have been infected with Covid-19 and 39 have died. A total of 839 people have recovered.
At the welcoming ceremony for the doctors, attended by some of Premier Oscar Mabuyane's cabinet members, the premier told the doctors that the government’s approach to the Covid-19 fight was four-pronged and focused on:
• Containing the virus;
• Investing in sustainable solutions;
• Protecting the vulnerable and the poor;
• Rejuvenating the provincial economy and securing the future.
"You arrive in our province of the Eastern Cape at a time when we have 1812 confirmed cases, 746 recoveries and unfortunately 32 deaths. We are punching back hard at the virus and our blows are telling," Mabuyane said.
"This is the situation you will be dealing with, as you join the hundreds of our healthcare workers who have been at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19."