Many more posts have repeated the claim that South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) government is digging 1 million graves in anticipation of a surge in Covid-19 related deaths. The claim has also been reported by news outlets.
As of 9 July 2020, South Africa had reported nearly 240,000 cases of Covid-19, with 3,720 deaths. Globally there had been over 12 million confirmed cases and some 550,000 deaths.
On 9 July health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said the country’s epidemic was nearing its peak.
But is the government digging a million graves to prepare for a surge in Covid-19 deaths? We checked.
Figure is capacity, not graves being dug
The rumour started with an 8 July press briefing by Dr Bandile Masuku, a member of the Gauteng province’s executive council of health, after he visited a gravesite in the Tshwane municipality.
He said: “We are preparing over 1.5 million gravesites and it’s an uncomfortable discussion … but it’s reality that we need to do it and we need to be prepared.”
Several news outlets then quoted him and reported that the province was preparing more than a million graves. But a day later the Gauteng government released a statement clarifying Musuku’s words.
“The province does not have over a million already open, dug graves; the over a million graves refers to the collective capacity municipalities can take,” it said. The gravesite Musuku visited “has a capacity of about 24,000”.
Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, South Africa’s cooperative governance minister, then tweeted that the government was not anticipating that a million South Africans would die of Covid-19.
Government's response to COVID-19 is informed by the imperative to prevent infections and SAVE lives. We are NOT therefore expecting and preparing for 1 million COVID-19 related deaths in the country.#StaySafe
— Dr Dlamini Zuma (@DlaminiZuma) July 9, 2020
“Government's response to Covid-19 is informed by the imperative to prevent infections and SAVE lives. We are NOT therefore expecting and preparing for 1 million Covid-19 related deaths in the country,” she said.
The South African government is not digging 1 million graves in anticipation of Covid-19 deaths. Rather, Gauteng province has space for 1.5 million graves. – Naledi Mashishi
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