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South African minister doesn’t know where taxes come from? No, screenshot from satirical site

“The money government has doesn’t come from people or businesses, it comes from taxes,” reads a screenshot circulating on Facebook in South Africa since 6 May 2020.

It shows a photo of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the country’s minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs. This suggests the words are hers.

The screenshot attracted a range of negative reactions, from sarcasm to insult.

“Hier is die slimste vrou in SA. Niemand kan my verkeerd bewys nie,” one user wrote, in a post viewed more than 95,000 times in just 24 hours. (That’s Afrikaans for: “Here is the smartest woman in South Africa. No one can prove me wrong.”)

Another wrote: “Hoor wat se die sleg kopdoek affere.” (“Listen to what this rotten headcloth-wearing thing is saying.”)

Does a government minister not know that government taxes come from people and businesses?

Did Dlamini-Zuma really say this?


Humour or exaggeration

The screenshot includes the words “The SA Vine”. This is a satirical blog with “Dependent. Unreliable. Satire” displayed boldly on every page. Each post on the blog is labelled “satire”, and the text often includes the hashtag #satire.

Satire may be defined as “the use of humour or exaggeration in order to show how foolish or wicked some people's behaviour or ideas are”. Satire can’t be fact-checked, because it isn’t presented as fact.

On 6 May the SA Vine published a post headlined: “The money government has doesn’t come from people or businesses, it comes from taxes. Not people and businesses”.

The post shows the same photo of Dlamini-Zuma, but attributes the fictional quote to “government spokesperson Nkosikazi Madl’emini-Zuma”.

When satire goes wrong

The post was shared on the SA Vine’s Facebook page. The page’s profile image and cover photo both prominently display the word “satire”.

But “satire” doesn’t appear anywhere on the screenshot circulating on Facebook. It is being shared without context, and with comments that present it as fact.

When satire is reused as fact, as real news, it becomes disinformation. The screenshot is false. – Mary Alexander

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