Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, and KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala have condemned the conspiracy-fuelled torching of 5G towers in eThekwini.
It is alleged that aggrieved community members of in Umlazi, KwaMashu and Ntuzuma on Thursday set fire to the recently installed 5G masts in these areas, resulting in multi-million rand damages to telecommunication infrastructure and massive disruption of communication services.
The KwaZulu-Natal government said the attacks were, in part, driven by conspiracy theories which claim that there were dangers associated with the 5G network including that it may be driving the second wave of the Covid-19 epidemic. Another allegation is that members of the community were not sufficiently consulted before the towers were erected, the provincial government added.
Both Ndabeni-Abrahams and Zikalala called on the South African Police Service (SAPS) to bring to book those behind the torching of the towers.
Ndabeni-Abrahams said: “It is regrettable that the much-needed network infrastructure is being destroyed. The country currently needs resilient and high-speed connectivity for every citizen to enable them to participate meaningfully in the digital economy. Furthermore, mobile telephony is crucial in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
“The destruction of network towers compromises multi-pronged efforts and initiatives to stem the spread of the virus”
The minister pointed out that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had dispelled the myths linking the 5G network to Covid-19 and that the national Department of Health described these assertions as unfounded.
The WHO said: “To date, and after much research performed, no adverse health effect has been causally linked with exposure to wireless technologies.”
“We also need to remind South Africans that spreading fake news or disinformation about Covid-19 is a punishable offence,” Ndabeni-Abrahams said.
Zikalala said the provincial government would engage with all relevant parties to ensure that infrastructure development by the private and public sector was delivered through honest consultation, so that it benefits and brings communities together, and does not become a source of violence and division.
“Indeed, as we battle the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and in the absence of any credible scientific proof to the [link between 5G and Covid-19], we will not allow conspiracy theories to drive our response to this global and national crisis,” Zikalala said.
The ANC in the province recently summoned one of its councillors, Sfiso Mngadi, for sharing conspiracy theories about links between 5G networks and Covid-19.
Meanwhile, during a pre-January 8 media briefing on Thursday, ANC head of organising Nomvula Mokonyane pointed out that the world was engulfed inn misinformation, which governments and researchers should rebut.
Mokonyane said it was important to disseminate accurate and clear information and that following a national executive committee (NEC) meeting on Wednesday, where the structure was also briefed on such conspiracy theories, they were better placed to do so.
Mokonyane said it was important to dispel myths and distortions and avoid exaggerating matters, creating public panic.