Transport minister Fikile Mbalula laid a charge of “fake news and misinformation peddling” against media personality Somizi Mhlogo at the Sandton Police Station on Friday morning.
This comes after a video emerged of Mhlongo telling Dineo Ranaka that President Cyril Ramaphosa would extend the lockdown period, prior to the president’s announcement on Thursday evening.
In the video, Mhlongo says he heard the news from Mbalula: “Today they’re announcing the extension. I was talking to Fikile.”
Mbalula has since denied sharing details of government’s plans with anyone, specifically Mhlongo.
“I never shared such information with him. He even predicted Miss Universe. I don’t know, [maybe] the guy is a sangoma,” he said.
Mhlongo has since issued a public apology to the minister, calling his utterances a “bad joke”. However, Mbalula said the matter could not be taken lightly.
“I have noted Mr Mhlongo’s apology. However, I do not view his utterances as a mere joke.
“The country is going through a serious disaster management period and any misinformation, irregular or unauthorised information being published is both unlawful and not assisting in our cause to manage public affairs carefully,” he said.
The minister added that while he has a friendly relationship with Mhlongo, he cannot give the impression that he mixes business with pleasure.
“I personally accepted the apology, but unfortunately it cannot end there. I’m disappointed about the turn of events, but the law needs to take its course” he said.
Mbalula said the video came to his attention 15 minutes before Ramaphosa’s announcement.
“It could’ve had bad implications; people could’ve mobilised.”
Mbalula expressed that misinformation undermines government’s efforts of fighting the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.
“We’re working towards the preservation of life. Let’s stop the jokes.”