Mobile telecommunications infrastructure belonging to MTN and Vodacom has been torched and destroyed in KwaZulu-Natal, possibly as the result of conspiracy theories linking 5G roll-out to the spread of the virus that causes Covid-19.
This is according to communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, who said in a statement on Thursday that three towers belonging to the mobile operators were destroyed on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. TechCentral understands that four towers were burnt, while an attempt to torch a fifth was unsuccessful.
The minister urged the police to arrest those responsible for what she described as “anarchy” and said the destruction of the towers “follows a resurgence in conspiracy theories which link the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic to 5G”.
Ndabeni-Abrahams on Thursday said linking 5G to Covid-19 formed part of a “misinformation campaign” that posed a “threat to investments” made by telecoms operators.The torching of the towers comes after an eThekwini (Durban) councillor, Sifiso Mngadi, reportedly shared a voice note with colleagues over Christmas linking 5G networks to the spread of Covid-19. Mngadi was slammed by the ANC and opposition political parties for the remarks and is now facing disciplinary measures.
“It is regrettable that the much-needed network infrastructure is being destroyed. The country 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 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 or removing infrastructure network stations or towers.”
South Africa isn’t the only country that has had network infrastructure targeted over the false belief that there is a link between 5G and Covid-19. Scores of telecoms towers were attacked in the UK last year, apparently by people who believed such links existed.
MTN South Africa spokeswoman Jacqui O’Sullivan said: “South Africa’s ability to meaningfully play a role in the fourth Industrial Revolution is inextricably linked to greater access to 4G and 5G technologies and these baseless conspiracy theories achieve nothing more than senselessly undermining much-needed progress, for all South Africans.”
A Vodacom spokeswoman, who asked not to be named due to company policy, said: “Vodacom’s security teams continue to monitor the situation in KwaZulu-Natal following the criminal destruction of some of our 5G base stations. We are working closely with local law enforcement to bring these criminals to book as well as to help protect our network infrastructure across the country.”
She added that there is “no credible scientific evidence linking 5G or mobile technologies to the spread of coronavirus”.
Duncan McLeod is Editor of TechCentral where this article was first published, here.