A Chitungwiza man who allegedly authored and circulated a fake statement bearing President Mnangagwa’s signature announcing the extension of the lockdown period was arrested on Saturday.
The fake statement was circulated on social media platforms nearly two weeks ago when the country was still in the initial 21-day lockdown period.
Lovemore Zvokusekwa (36) of House Number 7094 Unit J, Chitungwiza, appeared in court yesterday before Harare magistrate Mrs Judith Taruvinga charged with publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the State.
He was remanded in custody to May 13 with instructions to apply for bail at the High Court.
According to the court papers, Zvokusekwa is employed by High Range Resources (Pvt) Ltd.
Prosecuting, Mr Lawrence Gangarahwe alleged that sometime this month Zvokusekwa published a false Press statement purporting to have been issued and signed by the President.
It is the State’s case that the document was headlined, “Extension of lockdown period by 13 days only”.
The document was circulated on different WhatsApp platforms by Zvokusekwa using his Hauwei cellphone with an Econet line.
According to the State, President Mnangagwa did not originate or sign the said fake statement.
Spreading fake news on social media and mainstream media about coronavirus (Covid-19) has been categorised as a Level 14 offence, the highest in the country and people convicted of the crime face up to 20 years in jail.
Recently, President Mnangagwa warned peddlers of falsehoods regarding coronavirus (Covid-19) issues saying they faced a 20-year jail term if convicted.
He said this at his Precabe Farm in Sherwood, Kwekwe, last week after returning from a tour of Mkoba and Senga suburbs in Gweru to assess residents’ levels of compliance to regulations of the previous 21-day lockdown.
The President dismissed as nonsensical, social media reports then claiming that he had extended the initial lockdown when no such decision had been made.
He then ordered an investigation into the origins of such messages circulating on social media.
“I have never made such a statement and that social media statement is absolute nonsense. We now have a law which punishes those who produce fake news and I have ordered an investigation into those behind the fake statement and if found, we want that person to be an example by getting up to 20 years in prison. It’s bad to peddle falsehoods, especially about a President,” President Mnangagwa said then.