Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula has laid charges against TV Personality, Somizi Mhlongo on Friday morning.
Moments before President Ramaphosa addressed the nation announcing that the lockdown would be extended for a further two weeks, a video started circulating on social media where Somizi was allegedly heard saying that he was told by Mbalula the lockdown was being extended.
Mbalula took to Twitter, shared the video, which was a recording of Metro FM radio host Dineo Ranaka’s Instagram Live video, and denied having spoken to Somizi.
Somizi later released a video in which he apologised to Minister Mbalula. He confirmed that he did not speak to the minister and that he was only making a joke.
In a statement on Friday, Mbalula said, “I am obligated by statutes, policies and regulations of Parliament and government to take action and seek consequence management over the matter”
“I have discussed the Mr Mhlongo name-dropping of my name with President Cyril Ramaphosa and will on Friday morning report this matter to law enforcement authorities as regulated and published under the Disaster Management Act on fake news & misinformation peddling,” Mbalula said.
“I have noted Mr Mhlongo’s apology however I do not view his utterances as mere joke, the country is going through a serious disaster management period and any misinformation, irregular or unauthorized information being published is both unlawful and not assisting in our cause to manage public affairs carefully.”
“Even though Mr Mhlongo guessed it right in his speculative discussion – he went further to mislead the public about the source of his information which undermines and is pre-emptive on government and the president over very sensitive information of a national security calibre of which I am very sensitive to and have adhered to in all my time in the executive.”
Regulations governing the national lockdown were issued in terms of section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act, 2002:
Offences (5) Any person who publishes any statement, through any medium, including social media, with the intention to deceive any other person about (a) COVID-19.