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No, anti-migrant social media posts from South Africa get it wrong – photo of old school bus used as bridge from the country Georgia, not Zimbabwe

IN SHORT: A photo of an unusual bridge circulating on social media wasn’t taken in South Africa or its northern neighbour Zimbabwe. The bridge was fashioned from an old train wagon in the country of Georgia.

A photo of a large rusted vehicle lying across a river is doing the rounds on social media with the claim it’s an “old school bus turned into a bridge in Zimbabwe”.

The claim was posted by the anti-migrant X account #PutSouthAfricansfirst on 24 January 2024. It’s since been reposted across Facebook and X here, here, here, here and here.

Zimbabwe shares a 200 kilometre border with South Africa’s northern Limpopo province.

Zimbabweans are often the targets of xenophobia in South Africa, which over the years has flared into violence. Populist South African movements such as Put South Africans First and Operation Dudula oppose migration from Asia and elsewhere in Africa.

The photo was also posted on X with the counterclaim that it shows “some of the bridges in South Africa”.

But not only is the vehicle not an “old school bus”, the photo was not taken anywhere in Africa.

ZimbabweSchoolBus_False

‘Abandoned wreck’ turned into functional river bridge

A Google Lens reverse image search led Africa Check to a post on the travel site TripAdvisor that says the photo was shot in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region of Georgia, a country in the Caucasus, where Europe and West Asia meet.

Social media posts from late 2023 describe it as an “abandoned train wagon used as a bridge”.

We then googled “train carriage bridge Georgia”. This led us to many other photos of what is clearly the same bridge on the stock image sites Shutterstock, Dreamstime, Alamy and Flickr. All say it crosses the Paravani river near the town of Akhalkalaki in southern Georgia.

The bridge also features in CNN and Architectural Digest galleries of photos from the 2017 book Abandoned Wrecks by Chris McNab.

A 2018 article on the book gives a longer description:

Akhalkalaki, Georgia – Showing a resourceful repurposing, Georgian engineers have converted this old train carriage into a functional river bridge, each end of the carriage set on concrete plinths. Such arrangements are not uncommon – carriage bridges are also seen in India and other parts of the world.

The bridge, now covered in graffiti, can also be seen on Google Maps and Google Street View.

The unusual bridge is in Georgia, not Zimbabwe or South Africa.

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