From bomb attacks to a deadly blaze: The fake news coming out of South Africa

True or fake? Here are some images that have been taken out of context.
True or fake? Here are some images that have been taken out of context.


A week after xenophobic violence ignited in South Africa, people continue to share photos and videos online purporting to show this violence – but some of the images posted on social media are old stories or have been taken out of context.

We have already written about two of the following stories in an article that you can find here.

The man who threw a child off a roof – but not because it was Congolese

One such example is a series of photos that show a man throwing a baby off the corrugated iron roof of a shack. There are enough photos to capture every moment of the incident: the man dangling the child over the edge of the roof, then the moment when he throws her, and the police officers waiting underneath, arms outstretched, to catch her.

People have shared these photos on Facebook and Twitter, constructing a false narrative behind the images. The caption for one post by Welia TV, translated from the French, reads: “A South African man wanted to kill a Congolese baby. Fortunately the South African police were able to intervene and save the innocent baby. What is happening to Africa?” The post has since been deleted.

While the photos aren’t Photoshopped, or faked in any way, and do show the sickening moment a man throws a child off a roof, they have nothing to do with the violence in South Africa over the past few weeks.

The photo was taken during a protest at the Joe Slovo township in Port Elizabeth in April 2018. The man climbed onto the roof of his house to protest its demolition. He threatened to throw his baby daughter off the roof, while a police officer tried to talk him down. When he did drop her off the roof, she was safely caught by waiting police officers.


A deadly blaze – thousands of kilometres away from South Africa

The man burnt alive because he stole – not because he was foreign

The bomb attack that happened five years ago

Fake news travels on different channels

Since the outbreak of this latest wave of xenophobic violence in South Africa, the FRANCE 24 Observers and other factchecking organisations, including AFP Fact Check and Africa Check, have been regularly publishing articles debunking the fake news that has been circulating around the attacks. However, false information is still widely shared.

At the FRANCE 24 Observers, we know that false information spreads on messaging apps like WhatsApp, and not just on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. That's why we created this quick visual factcheck, in the hope of reaching these audiences via WhatsApp – so you can see in a snapshot what’s true and what’s fake.