Couple arrested over false ED message

Thupeyo Muleya, Beitbridge Bureau
A Beitbridge couple has been arrested for allegedly sending a message to a WhatsApp group claiming that President Mnangagwa had succumbed to Covid-19.

The suspects have become the latest to be caught in the web as authorities crack down on those publishing falsehoods.

Devine Panashe Maregere (20) and his wife Vongai Nomatter Chiminya (20) are accused of having falsely claimed that the Head of State had died on the morning of January 25 due to Covid-19 related complications.

The two have since appeared before Beitbridge Resident Magistrate, Mr Toyindepi Zhou charged for contravening Section 31 (a) (i) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9: 23 (publishing or communicating false statement prejudicial to the State).

They were remanded in custody to March 5.

Prosecuting, Miss Tsitsi Mutukwa said on January 26, the two were at their home in Dulivhadzimu when Chiminya received an audio message via a WhatsApp group “Ruwadzano Rwemadzimai” which she is a member of.

The audio message claimed that President Mnangagwa had died of Covid-19 on January 25 at around 6AM.

Chiminya allegedly sent the message to Maregere, who in turn forwarded it to another WhatsApp group, “Agents and Runners, Beitbridge”. He used his phone’s NetOne line to forward the audio message.

The offence was discovered the following day leading to the pairs’ arrest and the recovery of the two mobile phones, a Mobicel and Samsung Galaxy J4.

The incident follows the arrest of political activist Hopewell Chin’ono and MDC Alliance top leaders, Mr Job Sikhala and Advocate Fadzai Mahere for spreading false messages on social media.

On Tuesday, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Mr Aaron Nhepera warned the media and individuals to stop peddling falsehoods concerning Covid-19 deaths.

He said such falsehoods traumatise families of concerned individuals and causes alarm and despondency.

Several false death reports of ministers and senior members of the ruling Zanu-PF party were posted and circulated on social media last week causing anxiety among family members.

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