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No, South Africa’s Durban harbour isn’t a ‘dumping site’ full of litter in December 2022 – photos and footage from 2019 floods

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.

DurbanHarbour Meta Check

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. 

Other versions of the claim show a video apparently captured in 2022, showing footage of the litter-filled harbour.

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

Some social media users were quick to smell something fishy about the December 2022 posts. “Why are you lying?” one user asked. “The Harbour is spotless right now,” another claimed

Other users posted links to 2019 news articles that showed the photo in the wake of the floods, or posted their own photos and videos of a clean Durban harbour that they claimed to be recent. 

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. 

Read our simple guide to verifying images or learn how to do a reverse image search.

 

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