Why hasn’t the 5G conspiracy ANC councilor been arrested?

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

The ANC eThekwini councillor started the new year with some spectacularly untrue and/or stupid comments about COVID-19. First he claimed there was no COVID, and then confirmed its existence because of what he claimed caused it using a feat of logic only intelligible to conspiracy nuts. “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 incredulous 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 lunatic 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, the scientifically-devoid Mngadi sent out a voice note. There is ample evidence of what he said and how far it was heard on that cesspool of misinformation called WhatsApp.

If Ramaphosa wants to show these rules aren’t just empty words that don’t apply to the ANC elite, its deployees and comrades in his own party, then Mngadi should be feeling the sting for fueling insane conspiracies. Hopefully they don’t result in the burning of over 80 cell masts in the UK alone.

Of course, just saying crazy things isn’t enough to get you fired or even sanctioned in the ANC, where facing serious charges of fraud and corruption mean nothing to Ace Magashule and Bongani Bongo. Perhaps his 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 Organization’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-ionizing 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-ionizing 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 – which 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 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, and joked, as best as I can recall, “I mistakenly set the signal to ‘coronavirus’ instead of ‘make everyone gay’.”

This article first appeared in the Daily Maverick. 

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About Author

Toby Shapshak is editor-in-chief and publisher of Stuff, a Forbes contributor and a Financial Mail columnist. He has been writing about technology and the internet for 20 years and his TED Global talk on innovation in Africa has over 1,5-million views. He has written about Africa's tech and start-up ecosystem for Forbes, CNN and The Guardian in London. He was named in GQ's top 30 men in media and the Mail & Guardian newspaper's influential young South Africans. He has been featured in the New York Times. GQ said he "has become the most high-profile technology journalist in the country" while the M&G wrote: "Toby Shapshak is all things tech... he reigns supreme as the major talking head for everything and anything tech."

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