ANOTHER Bulawayo woman who allegedly peddled fake news on WhatsApp and shared with her daughter a false Press statement bearing President Mnangagwa’s fake signature announcing the extension of the lockdown period has been arrested.
The statement she purported to have been issued by President Mnangagwa was headlined: “Extension of lockdown period by 13 days only.”
Abishel Matika (39) of Cowdray Park appeared in court yesterday facing charges of publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the State as defined in section 31 (a) (I) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. She was remanded out of custody to June 8 on $500 bail by Bulawayo magistrate Ms Adelaide Mbeure.
Matika was ordered to report once every fortnight at Luveve Police Station as part of the bail conditions. She was also ordered to surrender her passport and to continue residing at her given address until the matter is finalised. The State, which was represented by Mr Terrence Chakanyuka did not oppose the bail application. Mr Chakanyuka said on April 10, Matika allegedly published a false Press statement purporting to have been issued and signed by the President.
The false statement with the President’s fake signature, was extending the lockdown period by 13 days from April 20 to May 3 2020.
“Accused person then circulated the fake document on different WhatsApp platforms using her cellphone, Huawei with Econet line and also forwarded the fake message to her daughter Renah Muhambi,” said Mr Chakanyuka.
According to the State, President Mnangagwa did not originate or sign the said fake statement. Matika’s daughter and their accomplice Prisca Gumbo (44) of Mpopoma suburb have since appeared in court. They were both released on bail. Spreading fake news on social media and mainstream media about 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 Covid-19 issues saying they face a 20-year jail term if convicted.