IN SHORT: Many South Africans head to Durban for the summer holidays, but in December 2022 a number of alarming social media posts appeared to discourage this, showing the city’s famous harbour full of litter. But rest assured – these photos are more than three years old, and the port is clean.
A series of posts circulating on social media in South Africa claim that a well-known port in Durban has in 2022 become a “dumping site”, filled with litter. Durban is the largest city in the KwaZulu-Natal province and the country’s busiest seaport.
Some posts blame the ruling African National Congress (ANC) for the state of disarray. “Well done ANC!!! What a beautiful country you made us into,” one user tweeted sarcastically.
Some of the most popular posts include two photos, with the claim they are of Wilson’s Wharf in Durban harbour. One image, said to be from 2010, shows a clean harbour, and the other, apparently from 2022, shows the harbour filled with litter and debris.
But do the photos and videos show the state of the Durban harbour in 2022? We checked.
Photos and videos show the aftermath of 2019 floods
A reverse image search revealed that the photos posted in December 2022 were first published online in 2019, appearing in social media posts and various news articles. The photos are of a part of Durban harbour, but show the harbour in the aftermath of devastating flooding in KwaZulu-Natal in 2019.
The flood in April 2019 reportedly killed 71 people in the province and displaced many more. The disaster caused massive environmental destruction and left areas like Durban harbour full of litter and debris.
Africa Check also looked into the videos shared in 2022. Using a reverse image search of individual frames of the video, we found posts and articles containing the same footage from 2019, after the April floods. (For more information on how to do this yourself, see this guide.)
Durban social media hits back
A member of the official opposition to the ANC, the Democratic Alliance, also hit back, tweeting: “I dislike the ANC A LOT but this is fake news.”
The social media flurry even prompted a local cruise operator to reassure the public. They posted photos of a litter-less harbour on Facebook and wrote: “To all our clients planning a trip to Wilsons Wharf … We are waiting for you. The Harbour is clean ... Trust us.”
It can be easy to get swept up in sensational stories getting a lot of attention on social media. But don’t share what you don’t know to be true. To check and debunk this kind of false information is often a quick process, even more so when photos of well-documented events and places are involved. Sometimes the truth is just a brief internet search away.
Republish our content for free
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.