HARARE – A man has been arrested for “publishing” on WhatsApp a statement purportedly issued by President Emmerson Mnangagwa announcing a two-week extension to the coronavirus lockdown, which the Zanu PF leader said was fake.
Lovemore Zvokusekwa, 36, of Unit J in Chitungwiza, was charged with “publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the state” following his arrest on April 18, police said.
Zvokusekwa appeared before Chitungwiza magistrates on Monday and was remanded in custody until May 13.
The statement, bearing a date of April 10, was fake – although its authors correctly predicted that a 21-day lockdown originally imposed from March 30 would be extended until May 3.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa did not announce an extension until April 19.
Mnangagwa ordered an investigation into the fake statement bearing his signature, and threatened 20 years in jail to its author.
“That is absolutely nonsense, I have never made such a statement,” Mnangagwa said, speaking on April 13. “If we catch this person, it must be exemplary and they must go in for at least at level 14, which is 20 years imprisonment. That, I think we need to demonstrate that we don’t want false news to be circulated especially when you are telling false news about the president. That is not proper.”
Police say Zvokusekwa published a statement titled ‘Extension of Lockdown Period by 13 Days Only’, before distributing it on various WhatsApp groups using his mobile phone “yet in actual fact the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe His Excellency Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa did not make or neither (sic) sign that press statement.”
Zimbabwe last month published lockdown regulations, which included jail terms of up to 20 years for people who spread falsehoods regarding the outbreak.
Human rights lawyers say most of the regulations are unconstitutional and have gone to court to challenge them.
Article by ZimLive