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Gave ‘a girl’ cash for transport and she didn’t show up? No, you can’t get her sent to prison

“If you send a girl cash for transport to come over and she decides not to visit you and fails to refund you that money, you can refer to Section 492 (i) of the Criminal Codification Act and file a case of theft under false pretence and she can be jailed for up to 7 years, report!”

That’s the claim in a message doing the rounds on Facebook in South Africa in mid-September 2020. It’s been viewed at least 90,000 times.

The message is in a screenshot of what seems to be a tweet from the account “SAPS”, short for South African Police Service. It also appears in another screenshot, of what appears to be a post on a Facebook page called “Acornhoek Police Station”. Acornhoek is a town in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province, and the screenshot shows the badge of the SAPS.

If a person sends a woman money to visit them, and she fails to show up or refund the cash, can she be charged under Section 492 of South Africa’s Criminal Codification Act – and face up to seven years in prison?

We checked.


Law doesn’t exist

The Southern African Legal Information Institute, based at the University of Cape Town, is the largest online free-access collection of journals, judgments and legislation from South Africa. It maintains a database of all the country’s legislation. A search of the database reveals that the country does not have a law called the Criminal Codification Act.

The act can’t be found in any collection of South African legislation. It doesn’t exist.

A Google search for “Criminal Codification Act” reveals that there is a law with that name – in Zimbabwe. Its full title is the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

But that law only has 284 sections. Section Section 492 (i) of Zimbabwe’s Criminal Codification Act does not exist, and “theft under false pretences” is not mentioned anywhere in the act.

Visiting someone is not a service that can be regulated by law. But paying someone to visit you for sex could be an offence. – Mary Alexander



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