Stafford Masie, CEO of WeWork South Africa
Stafford Masie, CEO of WeWork South Africa

Businessman Stafford Masie apologises for fear-inducing viral Covid-19 voice note

By IOL Reporter Time of article published Jun 25, 2020

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Johannesburg - Businessman Stafford Masie has apologised to Sandton-based Dr Mark Oliver for falsely using his name in a fear-inducing Covid-19-related WhatsApp voice note. 

In the 4-minute voice note, which has since gone viral on social media, Masie, who is the general manager for WeWork, purports to have had a conversation with the doctor. 

He says in the voice note that the doctor had warned that they were seeing young children who were coming with strokes and healthy people suffering heart attacks – supposedly because of the Covid-19 virus.  

On Facebook this week, Oliver released a statement informing the public that he had not had any contact with Masie for over seven months. “I have not seen or spoken to this individual for seven months. 

"I strongly distance myself from the opinions mentioned. I am not the source of such a maligned opinion,” he said. 

Masie’s voice note advocated for people to voluntarily return to a stringent level 5 lockdown as he claimed the virus would wreak havoc for the next two to three weeks.  

He claimed that South Africa during that period, would resemble Italy, the UK and Spain - countries where hundreds of thousands of people were infected and tens of thousands of people died of the virus. 

As of Wednesday night, South Africa has over 111 000 who have been infected since March, with over 2 200 Covid-19 related deaths. Active cases in the country are estimated at 52 700, after more than 56 000 recoveries. 

Last month, experts said the country’s Covid-19 peak would arrive in July in a worst-case scenario, but in a best-case scenario the peak would come in August.  

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize also warned in April that there could be 40 000 Covid-19-related deaths by November, In the past three days, nearly 14 500 people have become newly infected with the virus, with Wednesday’s daily increase of 5 688 being the highest since Covid-19 arrived in South Africa. 

Meanwhile, Masie admitted to lying about his conversation with Oliver, and said people who received the voice note should consider it as his personal opinion. 

“A WhatsApp voice note that I recorded, only intended to be privately received by my immediate WhatsApp family group, has unfortunately gone viral. The intent of the voice note was to encourage them (privately) to take more precautionary measures regarding Covid-19… 

“I feared that my family members weren’t doing enough. Should you receive that voice note, please treat the contents therein as personal opinion(s), not informed by facts and not based on any expertise I have regarding Covid-19. The audio you may hear was not meant to be made public. 

“It is me communicating privately with my family and out of concern for them only. I reference a doctor in the voice note and much of what I stated regarding him should be considered overly exaggerated and not related to anything he told me.  

“I used his name and stature as a means to further emphasize matters regarding my opinion(s) to my family. “He has received many calls and enquiries regarding what I claimed he stated. Doc, again, I sincerely apologize - it was completely wrong of me to use your name in that manner and I wish I could undo this leak.  

“If that voice note creates any fear or anxiety, I sincerely apologize. Remember to always fact check sources/stories folks. But, I do believe we need to all take the situation more seriously and follow authoritative facts (not viral WhatsApp voice notes from dorks like me!),” he said.


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