JOHANNESBURG, Jan 11 (Reuters) – A conspiracy theory linking 5G mobile telecommunications masts to the spread of the coronavirus is baseless and fake, South Africa’s telecom regulator said on Monday after towers in KwaZulu-Natal province were torched last week.
Reiterating the regulator’s position, the chairman of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) Keabetswe Modimoeng in a statement urged people “not to be swayed by these conspiracy theories that are hell-bent on bringing instability and fear within the nation.”
This came after about four towers belonging to Vodacom and MTN were burnt and destroyed between Tuesday and Wednesday last week in KwaZulu-Natal province following a resurgence in theories linking the emergence of COVID-19 to 5G technology.
Some of the frequencies trailed for 5G deployment by industry players were assigned way before the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in 2020, ICASA, South Africa’s telecoms regulator, said.
The regulator added that approved “electronic communications facilities” provided in the country adhere to prescribed standards and that there is no evidence they pose any health risks to the country or its citizens.
“We all need to rely on scientifically-based evidence and refrain from these baseless theories. Such fake theories can only cause despair and unnecessary technophobia among South Africans and must be strongly condemned”, said Modimoeng.
A range of groups in South Africa, like those across the globe, have opposed the advent of 5G, mostly over concerns that radio waves could damage human health.
Both MTN and Vodacom have also debunked the theories.
The two mobile network operators began rolling out 5G across the country last year and aim to accelerate the roll-out once spectrum has been auctioned by the end of March 31. (Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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