Johannesburg - A shocking video circulating on Saturday and which was described as showing young Zimbabweans being necklaced in a xenophobic attack in Durban this week is unconnected to attacks on foreigners in South Africa this week, News24 has confirmed.
The video was seized upon on social media on Saturday morning as evidence of the violence against foreign nationals this week as xenophobic tension in South Africa rises, but the truth behind the footage is quite different. The video appears to relate to an incident in Rustenburg in March and there is no suggestion the victims of the horrifying attack were foreigners.
Durban police on Saturday said the horrific video which shows a group of young men being set alight with a crowd watching was, to their knowledge, not footage of the recent violent attacks on foreign nationals in the coastal city as some on social media are suggesting.
The video appears to be linked to an SABC report of 18 March of an attack in the Sondela informal settlement in Rustenburg on a group of men accused of murder.
Durban police spokesperson Major Thulani Zwane said on Saturday that while the video had not been brought to his attention, police monitoring the tense situation south of Durban had received no such report of a similar incident in the past week, debunking the belief that it was related to xenophobic violence in Durban.
"We need to be careful about these things because videos like these can cause a panic. As of now we have no knowledge of this incident."
Storyful Newswire, who News24 asked to assist verify it, said: "It appeared a few weeks ago, described as showing five youths being set alight 'after raping a woman and shooting her husband' in Rustenberg, about 140km northeast of Johannesburg. There is no reference to Zimbabwe or xenophobia. SABC carried a report on the footage on the video"
According to the SABC report, "'five youths, alleged criminals, were set alight. A video too graphic to display shows five youth, three of them minors, tied with ropes and tyres placed around their necks.
"During a public interrogation, they confessed to the murder of a man and were then doused with petrol and set alight. Police came to their rescue but three of them later succumbed to their injuries."
At the time it was reported that one was fighting for his life and a fifth remained in police custody.
A North West police spokesperson was not immediately available to provide an update on any criminal charges against the group surrounding the burning youths without helping them or stopping the men who were burning them.
YouTube has started taking down some of the posts of the video with the message: "This video has been removed as a violation of YouTube's policy on shocking and disgusting content."
However, two foreign nationals were taken to hospital on Friday night after petrol bombs were thrown into a container they used as a shop and a sleeping place in Umlazi.
Zwane said it was originally thought they were Somalian, but it emerged they were from Ethiopia.
Seventeen people have been arrested this past week in the Durban area for crimes associated with attacks on foreign nationals.
Charges include looting and assault.
Amir Sheik of the Somali Community Board of SA said on Saturday morning he was receiving calls from Somalians in Durban and in the Western Cape who are frightened.
"They have closed their businesses," he said. "They are afraid of being attacked".
The Congress of SA Trade Unions condemned the last attacks saying it was unacceptable.