IN SHORT: The president’s spokesperson rubbished claims that Ramaphosa had taken ill or was rushed to hospital. The president opted not to attend some of the ruling party’s executive committee meetings.
On 7 January 2024 rumours spread on social media that South African president Cyril Ramaphosa had been rushed to hospital with serious health concerns.
This was the day before South Africa's ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), celebrated its 112th anniversary. Ramaphosa presides over both the country and the ANC.
One video, viewed over a million times within a day of publication, claimed Ramaphosa was “in ICU” after having “collapsed” as a result of a stroke.
Other versions of the claim circulated on social media platform X (previously Twitter), like this one with 460,000 views, as well as here, here, here and here. Similar versions of the claim also appeared on Facebook here, here, here and here.
But did Ramaphosa suddenly take ill in January 2024?
Claim spread by fake account impersonating opposition leader
An X account apparently belonging to opposition party leader Julius Malema posted a photo of the president on 7 January. In the photo, Ramaphosa is supported by the two people walking either side of him. The tweet reads: “Cyril was clearly not well before he collapsed earlier this morning. We wish him well @EFFSouthAfrica.”
Malema is the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, or the EFF. The X account tagged in the tweet is the party’s official and verified account.
The tweet gained substantial attention, quickly receiving more than 700,000 views, and this appears to be where the rumour started.
But this is not Malema’s official account. It replicates Malema’s real account, using the same name, profile photo and bio, except for one word. The fake account reads: “Not the Commander in Chief of the Economic Freedom Fighters.” (Emphasis added.)
The fake account’s handle is “@Julius_Malema1”, compared to Malema’s official handle @Julius_S_Malema.
And the photo of the president has been online for more than a year. It was posted as early as 19 December 2022 and is from a previous ANC gathering.
Ramaphosa’s spokesperson refuted ‘malicious rumour’
Some of the posts, such as here and here, said Ramaphosa had collapsed “after [being] told by the NEC [National Executive Committee] to resign with immediate effect for destroying the ANC and country”. But we found no evidence for this, though it would have made news headlines across the country.
The rumours spread after Ramaphosa was reportedly absent from some of the activities at the NEC gathering. But the presidency was quick to respond to the claims about the president’s health. On the evening of 7 January, Vincent Magwenya, spokesperson for Ramaphosa, tweeted: “The President is fine, he was never hospitalised, and there was no emergency.”
Magwenya labelled the claim a “malicious rumour” and said that rather than having been rushed to hospital, the president had “attended a meeting and decided to spend the rest of the day at home ahead of a busy week”.
Republish our content for free
For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false
A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”, “altered”, “partly false” or “missing context”. This could have serious consequences. What do you do?
Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.Publishers guide
Africa Check teams up with Facebook
Africa Check is a partner in Meta's third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.
The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.
You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.