Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi will lay a charge against people accused of spreading fake news about Covid-19 in South Africa.
He said three people have been identified in relation to the offence.
They were the alleged source of two fake news articles which went viral on social media.
Motsoaledi was speaking at an inter-ministerial briefing following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of a 21-day nationwide lockdown.
The fake news articles were about Chinese people inside a building at the Lebombo border post, who were supposedly using corrupt means to enter South Africa after being refused entry at OR Tambo International Airport. The post labelled South Africa a “banana republic”.
The other was about an aircraft from China which landed at OR Tambo on Friday carrying 80 South African students.
These students were being quarantined in Gauteng, but the 70 Chinese nationals were refused entry and told to go back to China.
The minister said: “Fake news tends to be more dangerous than the virus itself because it worries people.
“Because of this, and because we are in possession of the original source of the picture, I’ve instructed my officials to lay a charge with the police.
“This is the first test case of whether people posting fake news can be charged or not,” he said.
Regulations published shortly after Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster earlier this month criminalised the intentional distribution of fake news.