South Africa’s communications minister slammed a spate of mobile infrastructure vandalism in the country, blaming conspiracy theories connecting 5G and Covid-19 (coronavirus) as the claims continue to spread around the globe.

Tower burning apparently took place at three sites earlier this week in KwaZulu-Natal, a part of the country where MTN Group and Vodacom Group launched 5G services using temporary spectrum allocated by regulator ICASA in 2020.

In a statement, the country’s Minister of Communication and Digital Technologies Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams condemned those destroying infrastructure, while underlining World Health Organisation evidence rubbishing misinformation connecting Covid-19 and 5G.

She added spreading fake news related to the pandemic was a punishable offence in South Africa.

The news comes as the country prepares its auction of spectrum to support nationwide 5G services. Six companies are in the frame to take part in the sale, though MTN is reportedly threatening legal action over some of the terms.

In 2020 operators in several markets blamed vandals acting on false claims of links between 5G and Covid-19 for destruction of infrastructure.