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No, Trump tweet on South African conscription for US-Iran conflict is fake

In January 2020, fears of war were sparked by the US assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. As tensions between the US and Iran remain high, misinformation about the conflict has spread online. 

A screenshot of a tweet widely shared on Facebook, supposedly by US President Donald Trump, reads: “Just spoke to Cyril, South Africans will be conscripted if we need them. Let’s stop Iran!” 

The tweet implies that South African president Cyril Ramaphosa and Trump had agreed that South Africans could be conscripted to fight for the US in a possible war with Iran.

Conscription, or the draft, makes it compulsory for citizens of a country, mostly young men, to join the armed forces, usually for a limited period of time. South Africa has not had conscription since 1993. The US ended the draft in 1973. 

The tweet in the screenshot is dated 6 January 2020 and uses Trump’s real Twitter handle, @realDonaldTrump. The profile picture is the one used on Trump’s real profile and the tweet even includes the blue tick used on verified Twitter accounts. But the accuracies end there. 

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, the official Twitter account for the US president. “Potus” is short for “president of the United States”. 

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 Trump 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 was deleted. 

Their record for 6 January 2020 does not include any tweet about Trump talking to Ramaphosa or the two agreeing that South Africans would be conscripted. 

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 in South Africa. The most recent, from August 2018, mentioned “South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations”.

If Trump and Ramaphosa had agreed that South Africans would be conscripted into a US conflict, it would have been widely covered in the media. But no major media outlet has reported on the tweet. The screenshot is a false, manipulated graphic. – Africa Check


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