“There's a Cape Town registered truck caught in Rustenburg with 34 kids under the age of 12 kidnapped from Pretoria and surroundings,” reads a message widely shared on Facebook in South Africa in March 2021.
But the message is an old and cruel hoax. It then suggests hope by telling people with missing children to “report at Brits police station”. And it encourages users to share the message.
For readers not familiar with South Africa, Cape Town is a large coastal city in the Western Cape province. Rustenburg is a city, and Brits a large town, in North West province. And Pretoria is the country’s capital, in Gauteng province.
‘Devasting information ... illegal truck arrested’
The post does not give a source or further details on the supposed kidnapping.
We searched Google for the message and found the claim in an article on known disinformation website Opera News. Published on 22 March, the article says the “rate of crime in south Africa is getting out of hands [sic]”.
It adds: “Another devasting information just surface around the social media now and it is making sensation on the social media, the information is about an Illegal truck that was arrested in Rustenburg carrying 34 kidnapped kids.”
The article’s poor spelling and grammar indicate it’s just more falsehood by Opera News.
Africa Check then searched Twitter and found several tweets from 2018 and 2019 that make the same claim. The hoax has been doing the rounds for years, despite a lack of credible news reports for any such kidnapping – or rescue.
The Facebook post contains elements from a credible news report, but the claim that 34 kidnapped children were found in a truck in Rustenburg in March 2021 is false.
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Africa Check teams up with Facebook
Africa Check is a partner in Facebook’s third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.
The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.
You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.