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South Africa, don’t fall for fake headline claiming the CIA will start a war in KwaZulu-Natal and frame Zuma’s uMkhonto weSizwe Party

IN SHORT: An altered graphic with a sensationalist headline alleges the US security agency plans to start a “war” in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province and frame Jacob Zuma’s new political party for it. While public protection officers have been deployed to the province in case of unrest, there is no evidence of a war or of CIA involvement, and the headline is a fabrication.

“CIA PLANS TO FRAME MK BY CREATING A WAR IN KZN”. That’s a claim presented as a “breaking news” graphic going viral on social media in South Africa on 6 June 2024, with over 132,000 views at time of writing. It was also sent to us by a reader on our WhatsApp line.

The graphic was posted on various popular group pages and profiles on Facebook and on X, previously Twitter. (Note: See other instances of the claim at the end of this report).

But the headline in the graphic has been altered and there is no evidence in support of the claim. Here’s what we know. 

False claim about the CIA framing MKP for a "war in KZN"

Jacob Zuma, the MK Party and the national election

In the week following South Africa’s national election on 29 May 2024, false information has been flourishing online. The African National Congress or ANC, which had dominated the political landscape since the first democratic elections in 1994, failed to achieve a majority vote. Support for other leading parties, including the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters, stagnated or fell. 

The uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) Party, formed in December 2023, bucked this trend, receiving 14.6% of the vote in its debut election. It has also rejected the election results and demanded a recount by the Electoral Commission of South Africa, or IEC. 

The party is led by former South African president Jacob Zuma, who was ousted from the ANC in 2018. In July 2021 riots and looting broke out in the country, beginning in the KwaZulu-Natal province, coinciding with the arrest of Zuma. An expert panel later blamed unemployment, poverty, inequality, housing and other socioeconomic factors for the unrest.

The South African Human Rights Commission found that Zuma’s arrest, for being in contempt of court following corruption allegations, had triggered an already volatile situation.

Instability in KwaZulu-Natal province  

Zuma was barred by the constitutional court from standing as a candidate in the 2024 elections because he was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment in 2021. But there have been repeated outcries from the MK Party questioning the integrity of the elections and alleging vote rigging, without evidence.

Commenting on the initial election results, Zuma warned the IEC not to officially declare the results, saying: “If you’re declaring, you’re provoking us. Don’t start trouble.” He has threatened to pursue legal action against the IEC. 

The IEC cautioned the MK Party after videos of what it called “violent language” from party members surfaced. And announcing the official election results on 2 June 2024, they said: “We’ve seen relentless and targeted social media attacks, disinformation campaigns, unwarranted allegations and sometimes what appear to be bear acts of intimidation.” 

Meanwhile, police in KwaZulu-Natal remained “on high alert” in early June, and reportedly said they had been working with the national defence force and other law enforcement agencies in the province to maintain stability amid protests and unrest since before the election.

Hundreds of public order police officers were deployed to the province over the election period. According to police spokesperson Brigadier Athlende Mathe, the situation remained “relatively stable” as of 5 June.

Fabricated headline used template from another ‘news’ graphic

It is in this context that the post with the KwaZulu-Natal “war” claim was published by a self-described “MK Stalwart” account on X. Though formatted to look like a news article headline, the graphic is an altered version of another account’s post, and is not from any actual newspaper or news site. 

The original graphic had a different headline: “A call for black parties to unite in parliament.” It was published by an account called The African Perspective on the evening of 4 June. This account is purportedly a “media & news company” but Africa Check could not establish its credibility.  

The altered version of the graphic with the new headline was posted the following morning. The account posting the graphic with this new headline attributes it directly to The African Perspective, even mentioning their account in the post, despite showing a clearly altered version of the original post. 

No evidence has been provided to support the claim that the US’s Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA, plans to frame the MK Party by causing a “war” in KwaZulu-Natal. And while law enforcement has been deployed to the province, and there has been unrest in the lead-up to the election, police have said the situation is relatively stable.  

The falsified graphic also appeared here, here, here, here, here and here.

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