Man Remanded In Custody Over Fake ED COVID-19 Statement

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By Alois Vinga

A CHITUNGWIZA man has been remanded in custody for circulating a fake press statement announcing the extension of the COVID-19 lockdown purporting it had been issued by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Lovemore Zvokusekwa, 36, is facing charges of publishing or communicating falsehoods prejudicial to the State. He arrested on Saturday.

The fake statement was circulated on social media platforms nearly two weeks ago when the country was still in its initial 21-day lockdown period.

Zvokusekwa appeared in court before Harare magistrate Judith Taruvinga charged with publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the State.

He was remanded in custody to May 13 with instructions to apply for bail at the High Court.

According to the police, early this month, Zvokusekwa published a false press statement document purporting it had been issued by Mnangagwa under the headline, “EXTENSION OF LOCKDOWN PERIOD BY 13 DAYS ONLY”

The fake statement announced the extension of the lockdown period for 13 days from April 20 2020 to May 3 2020.

“Accused then disseminated the false press statement on different WhatsApp platforms using his cellphone Huawei 6 Pro serial number 861855030065887 and 861855030082163 with Econet line number 0772103312, yet in actual fact, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe His Excellency Emmerson Mnangagwa did not make or neither sign that press statement,” the police papers show.

Last week, Mnangagwa called for the police to investigate the matter and arrest the suspect. He said originators of fake COVID-19 messages faced jail terms of up 20 years.

Mnangagwa has since announced the postponement of the lockdown by another 14 days.