Back to Africa Check

No, Donald Trump and Boris Johnson did not tweet about ‘attacks’ in South Africa

Screenshots of two tweets that seem to show US president Donald Trump and UK prime minister Boris Johnson criticising the South African government are doing the rounds on Facebook.

The first, supposedly tweeted by @realDonaldTrump on 4 September 2019, reads: “This barbaric attacks by South African is very disappointing, its time we put South Africa under strong Economic Sanctions, first it was the minority White people now its African . Either Cyril get his people in line or we pull out all our investments and they learn”.

The second, under @BorisJonhson but with no date, reads: “We could not fold our hands and ignore what’s happening in South Africa .I strongly suggest that the President of South Africa will take responsibility of his compaining chants and stop this attacks, The west is fully prepared to pull out all its investments from South Africa.”

The screenshots were posted on the group page “Afrikaners” on 8 September 2019 and have been shared more than 1,000 times. 

But there are a number of clues that suggest the tweets may not be real. The poor grammar and spelling - though Trump sometimes misspells - is an immediate red flag. 

And Boris Johnson’s username is incorrect. On Twitter, you can find him under @BorisJohnson, not “@BorisJonhson”.

To be sure, we went through the archives. 

Trump’s tweets are presidential records

Since Trump became US president in January 2017 he has continued to tweet on his personal account @realDonaldTrump. Some of his posts are then retweeted on @potus – short for “president of the US”. 

It’s US law that the federal government owns and controls all presidential records. This means any communication by the president – including tweets – can’t be deleted. They must instead be archived and made available to the public.  

It’s also illegal for Trump to delete tweets while he is president. 

A number of websites are dedicated to keeping track of everything the 45th US president posts online. These include the Trump Twitter Archive and Factbase, which has a database of all Trump’s deleted tweets.  

Another site, Did Trump Tweet It, keeps a daily record of tweets and retweets on @realDonaldTrump and @potus, and would note if any tweet were deleted. 

Their record for 4 September 2019 does not include any tweet about “barbaric attacks” in South Africa. 

In fact, since Trump joined Twitter in 2009 he has tweeted about South Africa a total of 15 times. Most of the tweets complain about crime. The latest, from August 2018, was about “South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations”.

Johnson tweets on South Africa three times in five years

What about the Boris Johnson tweet? We found no evidence to suggest that he had tweeted about attacks in South Africa either. 

And an advanced Twitter search shows that since joining the platform in April 2015, Johnson has tweeted about South Africa a total of three times. The latest was a retweet of a blog about saving South Africa’s rhinos, from May 2018. 

And if either Trump or Johnson had threatened South Africa with economic sanctions, it would have been widely covered in the media. But no major media outlet has reported on the tweets. The screenshots are false, manipulated graphics. – Africa Check


Republish our content for free

We believe that everyone needs the facts.

You can republish the text of this article free of charge, both online and in print. However, we ask that you pay attention to these simple guidelines. In a nutshell:

1. Do not include images, as in most cases we do not own the copyright.

2. Please do not edit the article.

3. Make sure you credit "Africa Check" in the byline and don't forget to mention that the article was originally published on

For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false

A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”, “altered”, “partly false” or “missing context”. This could have serious consequences. What do you do?

Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.

Publishers guide

Africa Check teams up with Facebook

Africa Check is a partner in Meta'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.

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
limit: 600 characters

Want to keep reading our fact-checks?

We will never charge you for verified, reliable information. Help us keep it that way by supporting our work.

Become a newsletter subscriber

Support independent fact-checking in Africa.