Durban - A Phoenix man could face jail time or a hefty fine after he allegedly took to Facebook and posted a danger alert, claiming his former girlfriend had the “deadly coronavirus and was spreading the disease in Phoenix and uMhlanga” because she had “refused to be treated or quarantined”.
National police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said the man was tracked and arrested at his unit five home on Sunday.
The post, defaming the 23-old-woman and her brother, was uploaded to Facebook on Sunday and went viral within a few hours. It had the SAPS logo on it and also pictured the woman.
The post gave a detailed description of the vehicle she drove and alleged that her younger brother had also tested positive for the virus.
“Her brother is also suspected of carrying the deadly disease and has put his entire school in extreme mass danger,” the post read.
The Facebook post
Speaking to The Mercury on condition of anonymity, the siblings’ visibly upset father said the incident had left his children traumatised.
He said they became aware of the fake news post on Sunday afternoon, after someone shared it with his son. He then alerted his family.
“Both my children broke down emotionally after reading the fake post. We have had to contact all the Facebook pages that post was shared to, and alert them that it was fake.
“Some Facebook pages released a statement telling people not to continue sharing the post,” he said.
He said he was grateful to the KZN VIP Security team and police for working swiftly in tracking the man and arresting him. “We just want to see justice unfold against the perpetrator or perpetrators.”
The father declined to confirm or deny if the man was his daughter’s former boyfriend.
KZN VIP security chief executive Glen Naidoo, said they received a frantic call from the victim’s father alerting them to the fake post. Using technology and other information, the suspect was tracked to his house.
“Once we located him, I alerted the local police,” said Naidoo. “At first, the man appeared to be shocked and stumped as to how we had managed to find him so quickly.
“He became agitated and refused to hand over his cellphone. He claimed he needed to make an urgent call.”
Naidoo cautioned that citizens should not take the Covid-19 regulations lightly.
“Some people are taking the lockdown with a pinch of salt. They are not taking it seriously. We are offering our services to the police and government. We hope this incident serves as a warning that breaking the law will not be tolerated,” he said.
According to the regulations, any person who publishes any statement, through any medium, with the intention to deceive others about Covid-19, could be jailed for up to six months and face a hefty fine.
“This is a criminal offence and the person would be liable on conviction to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months, or both such fine and imprisonment,” read the regulations.
The man is expected to make his first court appearance on Tuesday.
Last week, a case was opened at the Port Shepstone police station, after a matriculant fell victim to a fake post claiming he had the virus.
Brigadier Naidoo said the suspect was not arrested, but a warning statement was taken and the docket was sent to the Senior Public Prosecutor for a decision.