Fake, old or not from SA: Don't believe '99%' of the viral Xenophobic messages, police warn

2019-09-04 12:23
Housing and land protests in Hermanus. (Supplied)

Housing and land protests in Hermanus. (Supplied)

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Most of the text messages, videos and pictures circulated to intimidate foreign nationals are fake or old, according to national South African Police Service (SAPS) spokesperson, Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo.

"Ninety-nine percent of them are either old or they are fake, or they are not from this country," he told News24.

He mentioned a video on social media of a man who was burnt alive, saying "that happened in January this year". 

The video in question is of a man who was set alight in a mob justice attack in Hillbrow after being accused of stealing a handbag, News24 reported.

"Far too many people are posting fake and old messages, pictures and videos and some of them are gruesome. This has the potential to incite further violence," he said.

News24 has seen many threatening messages aimed at foreign nationals in South Africa, as well as violent videos, but the authenticity of these have not been confirmed.

One message was purported to have been "published by News24".

It claimed that main roads would be blocked in Johannesburg due to protests and quoted a "spokesperson T. Gumbersita" who appealed to employers to let their employees leave work early.

News24 has never published this – neither before, nor after it was posted.

READ | Violence, attacks on foreign nationals 'not justified' - Ramaphosa

Earlier on Tuesday morning, Gauteng education department spokesperson Steve Mabona said the department had received messages "regarding disruptions due  to an insinuation that there is a vehicle kidnapping children and burning schools in and around Katlehong".

"Subsequently, parents are panicking, fetching their children from schools," he said.

However, Mabona said Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi found no burning of schools when he visited the area.

"MEC Lesufi is this afternoon visiting Lungisani Primary School which was reported to be on fire. We wish to inform that there is no school burnt."

In a statement released on Wednesday, Gauteng SAPS spokesperson, Colonel Lungelo Dlamini, said this false information could cause more violence. 

"Today’s false information on fake social media relating to the schools that are burning and the kidnapping of school children in Katlehong is geared to incite violence and instill fear among the the Gauteng communities," he said. 

He further condemned the sharing of fake news, "The abuse of social media has since the flare-up of the recent incidents of violence and looting of businesses in some parts of Gauteng, is being condemned in the strongest terms as it seeks to undermine the authority of the state. The Provincial Commissioner of Gauteng has increased re-inforcent to deal with any situation since the violence has stabilised."

READ | 'At least I am alive and safe': Xenophobic violence spreads to Alexandra where it started in 2008

Among the messages were some that warned foreign nationals to leave before a certain date, threatening to "kill them" if they did not.

There were also messages that promised to ramp up unrest because foreign nationals have killed people since the unrest started.

"It doesn't matter what they post, the fact that they are posting, it causes a problem," Naidoo said.

"In 2008 we had the same thing we had earlier in the year… the same messages seem to be coming up [again], some of them slightly modified," he continued.

While foreign nationals fear for their lives, Naidoo reassured everyone in this regard.

"People should not be phased by these messages and we have put measures in place to ensure the safety of everyone in South Africa."

Hundred of arrests made

Dlamini, in the statement, said hundreds of arrests had been in Gauteng after unrest aimed at ridding the CBD of foreign nationals.

"Last night in Ekurhuleni a total of 100 people were arrested when police responded to several incidents of public violence and looting. Fifty-four (54) of these suspects were surrounded by the police in Tokoza and Katlehong whilst they were inside two businesses stealing furniture and groceries. Others were arrested for public violence in Buhle Park, Germiston and Elsburg for public violence." 

However, Dlamini added that fake news still remained a problem, "As the arrest of people involved in violence has risen to 289 since the Sunday, police are experiencing a dramatic decline in public violence and looting in areas of Johannesburg and Tshwane.

"However, police management is concerned about a campaign of fake news on social media highlighting a spectrum of violence that incites and instills fear among the residents of Gauteng," Dlamini said. 

Read more on:    johannesburg ­  |  xenophobia  |  crime

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