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Video of rock in shipping container not related to purported Malawi-Zimbabwe COVID-19 vaccine agreement

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Claim: Malawi government ordered vaccines from Zimbabwe and a huge rock was delivered to them.

The Malawian government has not ordered for vaccines from Zimbabwe as both countries are receiving different COVID-19 vaccines from different facilities outside Africa. The video associated with the claim is related to Malawian news reports on Malawi’s intended export of a Quartz raw mineral rock to China.

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COVID-19 vaccination programmes are underway across the world. In Africa, more than half of the countries on the continent have either received their first consignment of vaccines or have already started vaccinating their citizens. It is in light of this ongoing global vaccination discourse that a South-African based tweet which has been retweeted onto Ghanaian Twitter timeline, is alleging that the government of Malawi ordered vaccines from Zimbabwe and instead, a huge rock was delivered to them.

In the 19-second video, a group of people are seen to be inspecting a shipping container which is later opened to reveal what appears to be a rock in it. The acclaimed video, which has generated over 100,000 views, over 5,000 retweets and over 5,000 likes, has received varied reactions from Twitter users. While some refuted the claim and provided a different context to the video, some only found the post to be humorous. For others who did not consider it any humorous and cautioned against it, they explained that such a claim further portrayed the stereotype of Africans as scammers and this fed into the xenophobia.

Tweet source: @ninjaro


The context of the rock in a container 

Using the Fake News Debunker by InVID & We Verify plug in, some key frames from the video were retrieved. These key frames were later searched on Google Reverse Image Search and similar photos were identified to be associated with news reports from Malawi 24 and Times Malawi in connection to a Quartz mineral rock meant to be exported from Malawi to China to be sampled.

The Malawi 24 report identified the Malawian Minister of Mining, Rashid Gaffar, and other officials to be the group of people present on site in the video. The report further stated that several citizens of Malawi had expressed their displeasure with the country’s continuous loss of raw minerals which were being exported in huge quantities as samples by the Mining Ministry, suggesting that this occasion was not new. 

The Times Malawi report detailed the location of the rock inspection to be the Manica premises in Lilongwe. The report added that on this particular occasion, Gaffar had intercepted the export because he was dissatisfied that the rose quartz mineral rock weighing 25 tonnes, was being sold by officials from the Mining Ministry to the Asian Market at K2 million which he considered a low value.

He is quoted to have stated in an interview with Malawi News that,

“I have stopped the exporting of the precious rock because I would like to investigate its true value. I heard about the selling of the rock through a memo which was written to me, informing me about the development. I became inquisitive to go and inspect the rock. I hear such rocks can fetch over K170 million. So, we will wait for experts to value the quality of the rock before it is sold,” Gaffar said.

Did Malawi order vaccines from Zimbabwe?

On 5 March 2021, Malawi received their first (and only, as yet) shipment of 360,000 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, and this was received from the WHO COVAX facility from the Serum Institute of India, Mumbai to Lilongwe, Malawi. This was not ordered from Zimbabwe as the claim has alleged. 

Furthermore, upon arrival,  Dr. Nonhlanhla Dlamini, the WHO Representative for Malawi, is reported to have stated the purpose of the COVAX facility as a fair and equitable option to distribute vaccines to countries in spite of their wealth status, and further expressed WHO’s continuous support for Malawi’s consequent  vaccination programme.

“WHO reiterates the purpose of the COVAX facility which is to ensure fair and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines regardless of a country’s wealth status. The deliveries mark the start of what will be the largest, most rapid and complex global rollout of vaccines ever known in history. Now that the vaccines are in the country, it is of utmost importance to start vaccinating the intended recipients and WHO is more than ready to continue providing the necessary support for this important endeavour”, Dlamini stated.

Zimbabwe, on the other hand, is inoculating their citizens with a different COVID-19 vaccine, Sinopharm vaccine – a donation from the Chinese government to the country. On 15 February, 2021, Zimbabwe received their first batch of 200,00 doses of Sinopharm from China, and subsequently received their second batch of Sinopharm vaccines from China on 16 March, 2021.

The other vaccines Zimbabwe is reported to be considering are Russia’s Sputnik-V, China’s Sinovac and India’s Covaxin, and not Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, being used by Malawi. 

Additionally, there have been no reports on the two countries’ alleged agreement to export, order, or receive vaccines from each other. 


The claim that the Malawi government ordered vaccines from Zimbabwe and received a huge rock instead is false. Both countries are receiving different COVID-19 vaccines from different facilities outside Africa. The context of the video is related to Malawi news reports on Malawi’s intended export of a Quartz raw mineral rock to China, and not a purported ordering of COVID-19 vaccines from Zimbabwe.

Maxine Gloria Danso is a Senior Researcher with Dubawa Ghana. Maxine has previously worked as a Research Assistant engaging in some notable communication research projects in Ghana, having completed a Master of Philosophy programme in Communication Studies at the University of Ghana, with specialisation in journalism, public relations and advertising. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and French from the University of Ghana, with a University Diploma in French Studies from Université Rennes 2 in France. Maxine contributes to the team by drawing from her knowledge and research experience in media studies.

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