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Why hasn’t the ANC’s conspiracy delusionist been arrested for spreading Covid lies?

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Toby Shapshak is publisher of Stuff (Stuff.co.za) and Scrolla.Africa.

Why hasn’t Sfiso Mngadi been arrested and charged for spreading misinformation about Covid-19, as per the regulations that criminalise such an action?

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

The ANC councillor in eThekwini started the new year with some spectacularly untrue and stupid comments about Covid-19. First, he claimed there was no Covid-19, then confirmed its existence because of what he claimed caused it – using a feat of logic only intelligible to conspiracy theorists.

“This disease,” he said. “It is not Covid. We are getting this thing from 5G towers, [some] installed during this period in preparation of the second wave.”

Calling for all the 5G towers to be disconnected in eThekwini, Mngadi then jumped wholeheartedly into the netherworld of conspiracy theories by claiming: “White people were vaccinated about five months ago. There was a truck that distributed the vaccine in boxes and white people from all over the province, including places like Ixopo and Vryheid, went there to receive these boxes. It was given to white people only.”

If the poor unvaccinated people of Ixopo and Vryheid tried to protest, such denials would be seen as absolute confirmation by the twisted logic of the irrational fringe.

Meanwhile, according to the Disaster Management Act, it is an offence to publish statements with “the intention to deceive about Covid-19, the Covid-19 infection status of any person, or any measure taken by the government to address Covid-19”. If found guilty you could be fined or jailed for up to six months.

It won’t be hard to prove the case, because the scientifically vacant Mngadi sent out a voice note. There is ample evidence of what he said and how widely it was heard on that cesspool of misinformation called WhatsApp.

If President Cyril Ramaphosa wants to show these rules aren’t just empty words that don’t apply to the ANC elite, its deployees and comrades, then Mngadi should be feeling the sting for fuelling irrational conspiracies. Hopefully they don’t result in the burning of cell masts, as happened in the UK.

Of course, just saying crazy things isn’t enough to get you fired or even sanctioned in the ANC:  facing serious charges of fraud and corruption mean nothing to Ace Magashule and Bongani Bongo. Perhaps Mngadi’s worst sanction, then, was fittingly being named Mampara of the Week by the Sunday Times.

As the authoritative Wired pointed out: “Concerns over the potential health impacts of 5G are overblown. If you weren’t worried about prior generations of cellular service causing cancer, 5G doesn’t produce much new to worry about. And you probably didn’t need to be worried before.”

The revered tech bible thoroughly debunked 5G conspiracy theories back in 2019.

“Researchers have yet to find conclusive evidence linking mobile phone use to cancer or other health problems. Still, fears persist, in part because of inconclusive studies. Many critics of 5G and other wireless technologies point to the fact that the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified mobile phones as ‘possibly carcinogenic’ in 2011.

“What they don’t usually mention is that the organisation selected that designation, which also applies to coffee and pickled vegetables, after a 2010 study failed to determine whether cellphones posed a cancer risk. A fact sheet on the WHO website dating back to 2002 is more sanguine. ‘In the area of biological effects and medical applications of non-ionising radiation, approximately 25,000 articles have been published over the past 30 years,’ the fact sheet says. ‘Based on a recent in-depth review of the scientific literature, the WHO concluded that current evidence does not confirm the existence of any health consequences from exposure to low-level electromagnetic fields.’”

Non-ionising radiation is the kind that doesn’t destroy molecular bonds, like radio waves and visible light.

It’s a terrible sign when people believe in such patently untrue drivel that common sense alone, as well as that old fact-based thing called science, have disproved over and over. But, like anti-vaxxers who believe a decade-old lie that has been thoroughly disproved, and had the original author excommunicated as a doctor, there’s no appealing to logic with the conspiratorially minded.

There was a brilliant tweet sent out last year by someone who claimed to work in the cellular industry. As best as I can recall, it went like this: “I mistakenly set the signal to ‘coronavirus’ instead of ‘make everyone gay’.” DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for free to Pick n Pay Smart Shoppers at these Pick n Pay stores.

Gallery

"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

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All Comments 4

  • Unfortunately you are wrong to say “Hopefully they don’t result in the burning of cell masts, as happened in the UK.” It has happened already in KZN, as reported by Rebecca Pitt in DM on 8 January: four cell phone towers were torched between 5 and 6 January. Mngadi was quoted in that article. Read the DM!

    • The torching of the towers is all the more reason to prosecute Mngadi. His statements are just as much incitement as Donald Trump’s speech which led to the US Capitol insurrection on 6 January, and for which he is now being impeached. There are of course other parallels in terms of believers in conspiracy theories…

  • Mngadi is obviously a pious and dedicated follower of Trump (and the many – not all) Republican enablers ! It is as infectious as a virus … which will disappear we are told ! Only …. no one knows when ?

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