The African social media has been flooded with absurd ‘revelations’ that some Zimbabweans are now resorting to selling their toes in exchange for riches. The rumour spread like wildfire in the beginning of this week, spilling into the broader African social media domain especially twitter and Facebook.
The priced toes are said to be ranging from a staggering US$15K to US$40K depending with the size of the toe. The biggest toe is rumoured to be the most paying pegged at the steepest price. The rumours did not state the reasons for ‘rising’ toe market in Zimbabwe, but suspicions are that they would be used for money rituals by the buying individual. The seller would stand to benefit money or fancy cars such as the Toyota Hilux GD6 series.
Following the roll out of the rumour, the country’s police department Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) expressed grave concern over the alleged trade in human body parts. The police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi signalled that the police were investigating the matter because the Zimbabwean laws make it a criminal offence to sell, solicit, advertise or create a market for human body parts.
"Police are conducting investigations and we shall issue a comprehensive report in due course. The public must do things according to the laws of the country, especially when it comes to human body parts. That is why we are saying as the police we are monitoring the situation," said Assistant Commissioner Nyathi. A day after the ZRP’s pronouncements that investigations into the rumour are ongoing, the country’s deputy minister of Information rubbished the allegations, stressing that “is a hoax meant to tarnish the country's image”.
African tabloids in countries such as South Africa, Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya took up to twitter to register their astonishment over the ‘developing’ trade in body parts in the southern African country. The social media trends for the bizarre topic were dubbed #chigunwe referring to a toe in the local widely spoken Shona language. In one of the videos that trended, a man wearing a bandage on the foot with the ‘chopped off toe’ is observed showing off a GD6 motor vehicle which he bragged to have bought after selling his toe for US$25 000.00.
The video went so viral that social media users in Zimbabwe and beyond started to create memes out of it. The BBC Disinformation Department however scrutinised two of the trending videos and concluded that they were staged. While some social media users embraced the rumour as a joke, news outlets in the continent have had none of it, claiming that the allegations are true given the Zimbabwean government’s record failure to ensure a stable economy for its people. This is proven by the alarming inflationary rate of the country’s currency.
Inflation in Zimbabwe has hit its highest, reaching over 100% to settle at 131.7 % according to the country’s statistical agency, ZIMSTAT. However, Steve Hanke, a US-based currency and inflation expert offered a distinct stats and projected the inflation rate to be standing at around 230%, already overtaking Venezuela’s record breaking 222%. The country’s use of the multi-currency system has also worsened the situation since the official rate of the Zimbabwe Dollar to the United States Dollar has been highly distorted.
The forex parallel market has made the dire situation harder by ballooning inflation of the local currency to the greenback. Despite the freefall of the local currency, the country has been marred with economic woes coupled with massive unemployment and an increased informal sector. These and other misfortunes have pushed fellow African States into believing that the rumour is not a hoax, but a desperate measure by citizens to make ends meet.