A video showing police in Zimbabwe violently hitting civilians with batons has been circulating on Facebook since March 21, with many claiming that the footage shows Christians being punished for going to church despite limits on gatherings enacted to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We took a look and found out that even though this video was filmed in Zimbabwe, it actually doesn’t have any connection to the

The video that has been circulating online in Zimbabwe is said to show “a scene of chaos” that went down as people were leaving a church service. The footage shows uniformed police officers and riot police armed with batons chasing down civilians said to be churchgoers who flouted a ban on public gatherings.

The video started circulating widely on March 21 and popped up in both French and English Facebook pages and groups, especially those focused on African news. The video garnered more than 6,900 views on Facebook and was shared by almost as many people. It is still circulating today. 

A video from November 2019

We used the verification tool Invid to take a screengrab of the video and then ran it through a reverse image search, which pulls up previous instances when the video was uploaded online (click here to find out how to run your own reverse image search). We quickly pulled up a bunch of posts that mentioned a protest that took place on November 20, 2019.

We then added the search terms “Zimbabwe” and “demonstration” to our search on Google Images and pulled up articles from November 2019 that feature the same video.

It turns out that the video was filmed on November 20, 2019. According to several articles published in both local and international news outlets, the video shows the violent repression of a demonstration in support of the main opposition party in Zimbabwe, the Movement for Democratic Change.

Police violently dispersed supporters of the centre-left party who had gathered on Nelson Mandela Avenue in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, on November 20 to listen to a speech by party leader Nelson Chamisa.

The video resurfaced online a day after the first coronavirus case was confirmed in Zimbabwe on March 19, 2020. On March 17, Zimbabwe’s government announced measures meant to limit the spread of the virus, including shutting down events and limiting gatherings.