“Canada uses fake potholes to slow down traffic,” it says above a photo of a man laying realistic-looking pothole stickers on a freeway. Below an image of a tilted van with both left wheels in a massive muddy hole it adds: “South Africa prefers the 3D method.”
The point is to make fun of South Africa’s ever-present pothole problems, but are the claims and images used to support them correct?
‘Pothole stickers’ originally from Indian ad
According to Hoax-Slayer, the pothole stickers are not a speed control measure used in Canada, but part of a 2007 advertising campaign for Pioneer Suspension by an Indian advertising agency, Y&R Everest.
In the ad, large stickers of potholes were placed along a road, creating the illusion of a real pothole. The message “FEELS LIKE PIONEER SUSPENSION” is painted a few metres further on, suggesting that drivers using this brand of suspension would enjoy a smooth ride even on rough roads.
Image of van stuck in pothole from Zimbabwe, 2008
After finding other images of the same van, but from a different angle and a front view, Africa Check got a hit on TinEye that led to a blog by Margaret Kriel, who is, according to the website, “a professional broadcaster & journalist who has lived all her life in Zimbabwe”.
Kriel’s blog has a reader competition entitled “favourite potholed road”, posted on 21 January 2008. This appears to be the earliest instance of the image used in the now viral meme. Titled “Pothole of the week winner”, the photo was said to be taken in Samora Machel Ave, Harare.
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