These gory, violent videos don't show xenophobic attacks in South Africa


Since early February, South Africa has seen a wave of violence directed at foreigners. Two graphically violent videos that have gone viral are being shared to condemn the torrent of xenophobia... but don't depict anythingthat is happening right now in the country. 



In Gauteng province in mid-February, citizens looted and burnt houses and shops belonging primarily to Nigerians or Congolese migrants. Although the riots turned violent, authorities say that no one died.

>> Read our report on The Observers:Residents of South Africa’s suburbs burn down brothels, loot foreign-owned homes

Our journalists have been sent many gory videos that supposedly show murders motivated by xenophobia. Our media partner Africa Check was able to verify two of these videos – which actually have nothing to do with South Africa. 

One video actually dates back to 2015

This video shows a horribly gory scene. A man lying on the ground is stabbed in the chest repeatedly and viciously by a group of people. When he rolls on to his front, he is then stabbed in the back as blood pools around him.

But the video is not a recent one. The Amnesty International verification tool YouTube Date Viewer shows that the video first appeared on YouTube on May 22, 2015. It was published by a Brazilian user without a description, and was reposted by several users from Haïti affirming that the video showed Brazilian gang members. 


On other publications of the same video, commenters say that it shows gang members settling scores. Other comments state that the video is even older than the date it was posted online. 

France 24 found the oldest internet trace of the video dating from May 2015 (warning, the video's content is extremely graphic).

The France 24 Observers team was not able to identify exactly where the video comes from, but the fact that it was originally posted in 2015 proves that it has nothing to do with recent events in South Africa.

Brazil, again

It's the same story for this second video, which raked in 125,000 views and was shared more than 750 times. It shows a man being shot at point-blank range. It was published in November 2015 on YouTube (and has since been taken down). In the video some words of Portuguese can be heard and it has appeared on several user accounts based in Brazil, suggesting that it is another video of score-settling, but this time in a favela in Rio.

A third video from... Ethiopia?

A third viral video shows a person lying inert on the ground being beaten by a crowd. A quick internet search brings up that it was published online on September 24, 2016. Different searches brought up links to violent events in Ethiopia, and other web pages published by pro-Oromo activists.

Here again, it is difficult to know exactly the background behind the video. However, no one among our Observers in Johannesburg, South Africa, were able to recognise the language spoken in the video. As with the other videos, the publication date proves that the events in the video happened long before the xenophobic violence in South Africa this year.

"I don't know where or when the video was taken," admits the uploader

When France 24 contacted the original uploader of the video, he admitted that he didn't know where or when the video was taken, saying only that some footage was taken from a shanty town in South Africa. He explained why he put it online:

Congolese friends in South Africa sent me the video. I wanted to share it because I thought it was unacceptable that the Nigerian or Congolese authorities are doing nothing in the face of these attacks on their people. [Editor's note: Nigerian authorities have actually demanded that South Africa protect foreigners]. The main thing is just to draw attention to this terrible situation.

Although these individual videos are false, they are symptomatic of the waves of xenophobic violence that erupt in South Africa. The last time there were xenophobic riots in the country, in 2015, seven people died.

If you have seen videos or images that allegedly show xenophobic violence in South Africa but you're not sure where they come from or if they really show what they say they show, send them to us on our Facebook page or via email to and we'll take a look!