By Spy Uganda Correspondent
Johannesburg: South Africa’s Chief Justice on Friday vehemently defended a prayer he made against “satanic” Covid-19 vaccines, seeming to refer to a conspiracy theory that they could “infuse 666” into people’s DNA.
Mogoeng Mogoeng, a devout Christian, came under strong criticism on social media following the prayer at an event in Johannesburg on Thursday to honour people who died from Covid-19 in Africa’s hardest-hit country.
“I lockout every demon of Covid-19, I lock out any vaccine that is not of you, if there be any vaccine that is of the devil meant to infuse 666 in the lives of people, meant to corrupt your DNA,” he said in the prayer.
On Friday he told a media conference that he would not be dissuaded from speaking against or praying against possible “satanic” vaccines.
“You can’t say we must, as Christians, just fold our arms and say ‘whatever people come with’ is fine. No. We can’t,” he said.
“If there is a vaccine with 666, I want God to destroy it. If there is any vaccine meant to corrupt the DNA of people, I’m asking God to interrupt it. Any clean vaccine, they must produce it quickly,” he said.
On Wednesday South Africa declared that it had entered a second wave of the pandemic as the number of new infections surged, with nearly 837,000 cumulative cases and more than 22,700 deaths.
The government has warned against spreading misinformation about the coronavirus, as it waits to secure its first vaccine doses through the COVAX global distribution scheme.
But Mogoeng said he was unfazed by any backlash and that nothing stopped him from commenting on any issues because of his judicial responsibilities.
“This is a free country. I’m not going to be silenced. I don’t care about the consequences,” he said.
Public health authorities have warned of the risk of Covid-19 misinformation and disinformation, while the World Health Organization has even gone so far as to call the problem an “infodemic.”
And while the current moment has certainly lent itself to ample conspiracy theories, scams, and rumours spreading quickly over social media, the information problem we are facing right now is less one of moderation and more one of mediation.
Over the last several years, platforms like Facebook, Google, and Twitter have been criticized widely for allowing false and harmful information to spread uncontested over their platforms. When it came to information that could be construed as political, they have been especially reluctant to take a position, handing over responsibility for decisions about truth or falsehood to fact-checking organizations.