Back to Africa Check

No, South African university not offering witchcraft course – it’s just satire

An article on the website Ihlaya News reports that the University of Venda is planning to introduce a course on witchcraft that will include classes on “lightning” and “thunder”.

Written by “Not Trevor Noah”, the article says all training would be held at night and some would require students to be naked during class. 

It quotes an unnamed head of faculty as saying what they have seen so far is “way beyond science” and that students will be equipped to “open portals to other dimensions that are not known by scientists”.

‘Fiction, poor satire attempt...’

The article was flagged as possibly false by Facebook’s fact-checking system. But it’s not false – or true. It’s satire.

“Ihlaya News” roughly translates, from isiZulu, as “crazy person news”. The site’s tagline is “nuusparodie waarvan jy hou” – Afrikaans for “news parody that you like”.

And a disclaimer at the bottom of the page reads: “My name is Travis Gumba, not Trevor Gumbi and definitely not Trevor Noah 1. Posts on this website may contain traces of truth. 2. All articles on this website have insufficient truth. 3. The truth in our articles is nowhere to be found. 4. The prophecies in our articles are accidental. 6. I accidentally wrote 6 before 5. 5. Fiction, poor satire attempt and news parody. 7. Don't tell people about this website.”

Parody of tabloid reporting

The article is a parody of existing stereotypes about witchcraft in South Africa, particularly in Limpopo province, home of the University of Venda.

The satirical story has been so widespread it prompted the university to issue a statement on their website in October 2019, condemning the article as misleading and “fake news”.

Reports of witchcraft being offered as a qualification at South African universities are not new.

In 2016 an article on the Nigerian tabloid Pulse reported – falsely – that South Africa’s minister of higher education, Blade Nzimande, had proposed the introduction of a bachelor of science degree in witchcraft. 

Headlines such as "BSc Degree in Witchcraft – South African Varsities go spiritual" were soon published and republished by blogs and junk news websites across Africa. All the reports were false. – 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.