South Africans burn down 5G towers over COVID-19 fears

Three cellphone towers in KwaZulu-Natal have been burnt and destroyed as a result of conspiracy theories that link the emergence of COVID-19 with the rollout of 5G infrastructure.

Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams released a statement condemning the destruction of cellphone network tower infrastructure and urged the South African Police Service to arrest those responsible.

The burning of the cellphone towers follows a resurgence in conspiracy theories which link the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic to 5G, Ndabeni-Abrahams said.

So far, three telecommunications network infrastructure towers belonging to Vodacom and MTN were burnt and destroyed between Tuesday and Wednesday this week in KwaZulu-Natal.

Ndabeni-Abrahams described the misinformation campaign as a threat to investments made into telecoms network infrastructure.

“It is regrettable that the much-needed network infrastructure is being destroyed,” she said.

“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,” she added.

5G conspiracy theories

Ndabeni-Abrahams said the destruction of network towers compromises multi-pronged efforts and initiatives to stem the spread of the virus.

“We, therefore, urge the police to arrest anyone who is threatening of removing infrastructure network stations or towers,” she said.

The Minister noted that several social media campaigns have emerged since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic that link 5G network infrastructure to the outbreak of the virus.

This is a myth that has been dispelled by a number of experts, including the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“To date, and after much research performed, no adverse health effect has been causally linked with exposure to wireless technologies,” the WHO has stated.

The South African Department of Health has also described these theories as unfounded.

These acts of vandalism follow comments from ANC KwaZulu-Natal councillor Sfiso Mngadi, who shared these conspiracy theories in a voice note.

Mngadi said that 5G towers were the cause of COVID-19 and called for them to be disconnected.

“As leaders of eThekwini we need to take action against this disease. It is not COVID. We are getting this thing from 5G towers, [some] installed during this period in preparation of the second wave,” Mngadi said.

Speaking to News24, an ANC KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson called Mngadi’s comments “lunacy of the highest order” and condemned the spreading of this misinformation.

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South Africans burn down 5G towers over COVID-19 fears