Back to Africa Check

South Africa’s ANC ignores Covid-19 social distancing at party? No, photos two years old

Photos shared on Facebook show South African president Cyril Ramaphosa greeting and hugging a man. Several people can be seen in the background, including Ramaphosa’s wife, Tshepo Motsepe, and Ethiopian president Sahle-Work Zewde

The post reads: “On the 6th June 2020 it was totally permissible for President Ramaphosa and over 50 ANC members not to wear a mask at a birthday party, NO social Distancing and they were hugging each other … It really doesn’t make sense.” 

Screenshots of the post have been shared elsewhere on Facebook, and both posts have been shared hundreds of times. 

People in South Africa are currently facing restrictions on their movement as the country tries to curb the spread of Covid-19

Under level 3, which came into effect on 1 June, public gatherings are prohibited. The only exceptions are places of worship, with no more than 50 people, and funerals, which have specific restrictions. People must also wear face masks outside their homes. 

Did Ramaphosa and other members of the ruling African National Congress violate these rules? 

Photos from 2018 birthday party

Using Google reverse image search, Africa Check traced the origin of the photos. Ramaphosa tweeted them on 6 June 2019 in a birthday message to Andrew Mlangeni.

Mlangeni was an anti-apartheid activist and served 26 years in prison on Robben Island, alongside Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki and others.  


In the tweet, Ramaphosa wished Mlangeni a happy birthday and thanked him for his service to the country. 

Mlangeni was celebrating his 94th birthday in 2019. But the pictures are actually from Mlangeni’s 93rd birthday dinner, in 2018. On 6 June 2020, Ramaphosa used the same photos again in his birthday message to Mlangeni, now turning 95. 

There is no evidence to show a birthday party was held for Mlangeni in 2020. On the contrary, according to an article by News24, he spent the day at home. 

“Due to national lockdown regulations, the occasion was marked by a ‘dignified drive-through’ at his home in Dube, Soweto. Each car was given 30 seconds to wish Mlangeni a happy birthday and drop off a present outside the house,” News 24 said

Ramaphosa paid tribute to Mlangeni in a televised speech

The photos of Ramaphosa, Mlangeni, and others are real, and are from a birthday party, but they have been used out of context. – Cayley Clifford


Republish our content for free

We believe that everyone needs the facts.

You can republish the text of this article free of charge, both online and in print. However, we ask that you pay attention to these simple guidelines. In a nutshell:

1. Do not include images, as in most cases we do not own the copyright.

2. Please do not edit the article.

3. Make sure you credit "Africa Check" in the byline and don't forget to mention that the article was originally published on

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.

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
limit: 600 characters

Want to keep reading our fact-checks?

We will never charge you for verified, reliable information. Help us keep it that way by supporting our work.

Become a newsletter subscriber

Support independent fact-checking in Africa.