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Photo, video from Zimbabwe used in fake story of South African xenophobic attackers ‘turned into snakes’

In March and April 2019 xenophobia in South Africa was again in the news with attacks on foreign nationals living in KwaZulu-Natal province. At least two people died and many migrants were left homeless.

Soon after, the known fake news site Zambian Observer published an article headlined “Malawian man turns his xenophobic attackers into snakes”. It shows a photo of a man dragging two large snakes down a dusty road.

“Two xenophobic attackers turn into snakes after they tried to burn a Malawian man’s house in Durban,” it says. “He’s now demanding R200,000 to change them back.”

The story and photo were then posted on the News24 Zambia Facebook page, racking up more than 8,200 shares. A video with the same claim was posted by Zambian page Chililabombwe Inside News.

Photo and video from Zimbabwe, not South Africa

But the photo and video are two years old, and taken in South Africa’s neighbour, Zimbabwe.

A search for the photo on TinEye took us to an article published on the Zimbabwean news site iHarare in May 2017. 

Headlined “Horror in Mabvuku”, it says a man was seen carrying two snakes in Mabvuku, a township east of Harare in Zimbabwe. It does not mention any people being turned into snakes. 

Other photos in the article show cars with Zimbabwean registration plates. A Zimbabwean flag is hanging in one of the cars. 

A video of the incident was loaded on the iHarare YouTube channel on 7 May 2017. The video posted on Facebook is also on YouTube, titled “Mabvuku man seen with two big snakes” and dated 8 May 2017.

No evidence for made-up story

The evidence shows that the photo and video are of a man in Zimbabwe, not a Malawian migrant in South Africa. There is no evidence of xenophobic attackers being turned into snakes in Durban.

And any outrageous story published by the Zambian Observer needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Africa Check has researched three different articles published on the site, and rated two as false and one as an outright fake. This story is also fake. – Africa Check


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