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Mandela’s mole moved? No, photo flipped

“Who's the real Mandela actually?? ?? I know one died in 1982 though!!” That’s the claim in a Facebook post published on 20 July 2020. 

As evidence, it shows two photos of South Africa’s former president Nelson Mandela, who died in 2013. One is from when he was younger and the other from the last few years of his life.

The photos have blue arrows pointing to a distinctive mole on his nose. In one photo the mole is on the left and in the other it’s on the right. The implication is that the two photos are possibly not of the same person. 

The post has been viewed more than 175,000 times in just a few days. 

Claims that Nelson Mandela was killed in prison in the 1980s and replaced by a lookalike named Gibson Makanda have been circulating on social media since at least 2019

Do these pictures show that Mandela’s mole had moved over the course of his life, supporting the idea that he was replaced? We checked. 

Original photo flipped

A reverse image search reveals that the photo of the elderly Mandela has been flipped horizontally. In the original photo, Mandela’s mole is on the right side of his face, in the same position it was in his younger years

The mole is clearly visible on the right side of his face in multiple photos taken of him after he was released from prison

Conspiracy theory rooted in ‘Mandela Effect’

The claim that Mandela died in prison at Robben Island in the 1980s and was replaced is a conspiracy theory that has gained popularity in recent years. 

The theory claims that the real Nelson Mandela died in 1985 at the age of 67 years. The apartheid government supposedly replaced him with Makanda, who went on to negotiate South Africa’s transition to democracy and become the country’s first democratically elected president.

Although Mandela’s family has not released an official statement addressing the theory, his late daughter Zindzi Mandela had laughed it off earlier this year.

The conspiracy theory has roots in the Mandela Effect, the name given to a phenomenon of collective misremembering. The term was coined after numerous people believed Mandela had died in prison in the 1980s and recalled widespread news coverage of his death. 

We could find no evidence of publications reporting Mandela’s death in the 1980s or any evidence supporting the theory that he was replaced. 

Two photos of Nelson Mandela in a viral post do not show that his distinctive mole moved in the later years of his life. One of the photos has been flipped. – Naledi Mashishi


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