Are people in Zimbabwe "selling their toes for as much as US$40,000 for the big toe, US$25,000 for the middle toe and US$10,000 for the tiny toe because of high costs of living"? No, that's not true: This claim originally circulated on social media as a joke. Several news outlets report that the deputy information minister of Zimbabwe has denied the claim.
The claim appeared in a Facebook post on the This is Uganda account on May 31, 2022. Beside the images of what appear to be three feet at different stages of toe amputation, the caption of the post reads:
Unconfirmed reports show that people in Zimbabwe are selling their toes for as much as US$40,000 for the big toe, US$25,000 for the middle toe and US$10,000 for the tiny toe because of high costs of living
This is what the post looked like at the time of writing:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed June 8 17:53:26 2022 UTC)
An earlier version of the images and text appear in this archived May 30, 2022, tweet. A June 1, 2022, BBC News article says the purported origin of the claim is from a May 28, 2022, Gambakwe blog post where it began as a joke and spread as a rumor that people started to take seriously.
We located a May 31, 2022, gambakwe.com article titled "XIMEX dealer Davis Kaseke says people are trading toes for money," which features one of the images and a version of the claim in the Facebook post. It did not disclose that the claim is a joke.
A June 2, 2022, South African News Site News 24 article titled, "Human toes trade in Zimbabwe a hoax, but prosecution for importing sex toys is not," included a statement by the deputy minister of information, Kindness Paradza, who said they had investigated the matter and found it to be false. Paradza added that the social media posts are "aimed at tarnishing the image of the country [Zimbabwe]."
The News 24 article also reported:
It all began with a man who jokingly posted a video on social media saying he had sold his baby toe and bought a Toyota Hilux DG6 truck.
However, the joke was taken seriously elsewhere in Africa.
Lead Stories reached out to Zimbabwe's Ministry of Media Information and Broadcasting Services office for a statement concerning this claim and will update this story if a response is received.