Xenophobia fake news

A police officer shoots at looters in Turffontein during violence directed at foreign nationals broke out in Johannesburg – Photo: Thulani Mbele, 02/09/2019

Xenophobia in South Africa: The fake news stories you need to avoid

Don’t believe everything you see on social media, guys. There are a few “fake news” stories doing the rounds, and they threaten to make the xenophobia crisis worse.

Xenophobia fake news

A police officer shoots at looters in Turffontein during violence directed at foreign nationals broke out in Johannesburg – Photo: Thulani Mbele, 02/09/2019

Xenophobia has been rife across integral parts of Gauteng this week, with foreign business owners bearing the brunt of frustrations from an angered community of South Africans. However, we cannot defuse these tensions when some nefarious individuals decide to perpetuate and distribute fake news.

Nigerian residents of South Africa are up in arms about the violence, with their fellow countrymen and women being targeted specifically by looters. That’s lead to political figures and high-profile celebrities weighing into the debate – but making some fairly wild accusations at the same time.

We’re here to get everyone back on the straight and narrow: We’ve sifted through some of the most outrageous “fake news” articles and snippets of misinformation, to comprehensively debunk them here:

Xenophobia in South Africa – four fake news stories busted

No schools are burning in Katlehong

Social media was abuzz on Wednesday morning, as footage of children running from their school and coming through plumes of smoke was purportedly linked to a crime committed by Somali immigrants. It was alleged that dozens of the foreign nationals went on the rampage, setting fires to schools in Katlehong, Gauteng.

However, this simply was not true. GP Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi has since taken to Twitter to dismiss these claims in an attempt to ease the xenophobia tensions:

Nigerians killed in South Africa? It’s fake news…

Although many of our residents from north-west Africa have been targeted and looted, there are no reports of any Nigerian immigrants being killed by protesters. The situation isn’t being helped by comments made by certain celebrities, however: Artist Tiwa Savage has claimed that Nigerians are being “barbarically butchered” in South Africa

However, this narrative – also pushed by fellow Nigerian musician Burna Boy – has been dismantled by the Nigerian Consulate. A representative confirmed earlier this morning that no-one from Nigeria has so far been killed in any of the reported xenophobic attacks across Gauteng.

Xenophobia and “burnt alive” stories

These are increasingly grim, but remain necessary to feature so they can be debunked. Two disturbing pieces of multimedia – both capturing men who are burning alive – have been uploaded to social media, suggesting that protesters are now setting fire to foreign nationals.

However, it’s total bollocks. One is a viral video posted earlier this from Hillbrow, where a South African is subjected to the horrendous ordeal, and another depicts a protester from Mozambique in 2008. You can check those links here (and here), but we’ve got to warn you – it’s stomach-churning stuff.

No, 20 foreign nationals haven’t been killed in the xenophobic attacks

Stories that have some sort of connection to people being burnt alive are the most popular way to spread fake news, it seems. Whether it’s the raw, shocking sight of such a painful death that illicits the strongest reaction, we aren’t sure. But one thing we are sure of is this: Twenty immigrants were not subject to a mass killing involving fire this week.

A picture of the aftermath from a tanker explosion in Tanzania is masquerading as “proof” that South Africans are systematically killing foreigners and burning their corpses as part of the xenophobia attacks. The claim has been debunked by The International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR):