Victoria Ruzvidzo

HARARE – The editor of The Sunday Mail – the country’s biggest circulating newspaper – was “spoken to” by the information ministry on Sunday after the newspaper was heavily criticised for publishing an article claiming a popular church leader “foretold coronavirus”.

The Mail’s editor, Victoria Ruzvidzo, is a believer and follower of Emmanuel Makandiwa, founder of the United Family International Church (UFIC).

The newspaper was accused of “promoting prophets at the expense of scientific knowledge” by journalist Pedzisayi Ruhanya on Twitter.

Former Herald editor Tichaona Zindoga said the paper was “endangering readers” with “this cheap, religious point-scoring claiming.”

“It constitutes dangerous mysticism and ignorance by the Sunday Mail. It’s an imputation on responsible journalism in a crisis,” Zindoga tweeted.

“I can’t find one way in which this helps a panicked reader to become more informed,” said veteran journalist, Ranga Mberi.

Ndavaningi Mangwana, the government spokesman, responded to Ruhanya’s concerns by revealing that there had been a conversation over the story with the editor.

“The editor has been spoken to. She has taken counsel well. It won’t happen again,” Mangwana said.

Ruzvidzo denied accusations that she is in Makandiwa’s “media committee”, although admitting she’s a member of the church.

“I respect your views, but for the record I’m not in the UFIC media committee and I don’t hold any leadership position,” she said in response to Ruhanya’s tweet.

Makandiwa’s claimed prophetic powers were the main story on the paper’s page 2, under the headline: ‘Makandiwa foretold the coronavirus.”

The newspaper said it had videos of Makandiwa predicting the coronavirus in 2015, 2016 and in 2017.

“He then made two more prophesies emphasising the seriousness of the strange disease which he said ‘emerged from the sea’,” the Mail reported.

Makandiwa reportedly said the “new disease” would be “more lethal than HIV/AIDS and cancer”.

The coronavirus outbreak was first reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, and its source is believed to have been a market which sells live animals.

As at 9AM on March 23, the coronavirus which causes a disease called Covid-19, had killed 14,757 people with over 341,000 infections confirmed in over 150 countries.

Zimbabwe has so far only confirmed two active cases, while tests on a third case were “inconclusive”.