Posts falsely claim video shows crackdown by Zimbabwean police over new currency

In another attempt to stabilise its long-struggling economy, Zimbabwe’s Reserve Bank launched a new gold-backed currency in April. Following a rocky start, online posts are sharing a video claiming that it shows unrest in the country linked to the new currency. This is false; the video is from 2019 and was debunked by AFP Fact Check on two previous occasions. In reality, the footage shows authorities beating supporters at a campaign rally for the then-opposition party.

In the 30-second video, anti-riot police wielding batons chase and beat people in the street.

“BREAKING NEWS: Police beating up Zim vendors for not accepting the new currency ZiG. Zyakhala ke manje to the educated land owners #Abahambe #PutSouthAfricansFirst,” reads an X post published on April 23, 2024.

The new currency, called ZiG, is short for Zimbabwe Gold.

“Zyakhala ke manje” translates from isiZulu to “they are crying now” and land owners refers sarcastically to Zimbabwe’s infamous land grabs of white farms under former president Robert Mugabe.

Also in isiZulu, “Abahambe” means “they must go”.

Screenshot of the false X post, taken on April 26, 2024

Similar posts were published here and here on X with the same video.

 Some users in the comments said the video was old while others used it to spew anti-migrant sentiments on accounts based in South Africa, where Zimbabweans and other foreigners are subjected to abuse on social media. 

The video, however, is from 2019 and unrelated to the ZiG.

Elections 2019

The footage was the subject of two AFP Fact Check debunks: in 2020 when it was falsely claimed it showed a police crackdown on churchgoers who defied the Covid-19 lockdown regulations, and again in 2023 ahead of last year’s elections.

Keyword searches on Google revealed the video had been shared by journalists and lawyers on November 20, 2019 (archived here and here).

One of the posts read: “Video received: Zimbabwe riot police attacked opposition party MDC Alliance supporters today who had gathered to hear leader, Nelson Chamisa, give his Hope of the Nation Address.”

Screenshot of the post in 2019

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance, the main opposition party at the time, was later renamed Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) (archived here).

AFP photographer Jekesai Njikizana was on the scene when the events unfolded in 2019. In one of his images, a man in red overalls with a matching red backpack stands out amid the police contingent. He also appears in the video currently being shared.

Screenshots showing a man in red overalls in the misleading video (left) and in the AFP photograph from November 2019

Njikizana’s photograph is captioned: “An anti-riot policeman in Zimbabwe tackles a woman with his boot as they dispersed a crowd gathered to hear an address by leader of the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) Alliance, Nelson Chamisa at Morgan Tsvangirai House, the party headquarters, in Harare, on November 20, 2019. Nelson Chamisa was due to address party supporters in his Hope of the Nation Address (HONA). The public address was blocked by riot police who beat up several people as they dispersed.”

The captioned photograph as displayed in AFP's archives

President Emmerson Mnangagwa of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) won the 2018 elections, an outcome marred by fraud allegations (archived here).

Zimbabwe Gold

As reported by AFP, the ZiG got off to a chaotic start the week it was launched because banks and shops needed more time to transition to the new currency (archived here).

This is the country’s fifth attempt at creating a local currency.

Zimbabwe Reserve Bank Governer John Mushayavanhu presents banknotes of the ZiG currency in Harare on April 5, 2024. (AFP / JEKESAI NJIKIZANA)

The Zimbabwean dollar, already of little value, became worthless overnight, frustrating citizens on April 9, 2024, who queued for hours outside banks attempting to withdraw their funds.

The Reserve Bank is set to distribute the new notes on April 30, 2024, weeks after it was launched. 

This has doubled the cost of goods for locals as shop owners are only accepting US dollars or doubling prices if paid in Zimbabwean dollars (archived here).

On April 23, 2024, the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange All Share Index fell more than 99 percent following the introduction of the ZiG (archived here).

Local media also reported that 65 suspected money exchangers appeared in court on allegations of contravening the exchange control regulations (archived here).

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