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Yes, South African convicted rapist and murderer caught using social media in prison

“Murder and rape suspect still using ‘social media’ while he was in prison” reads the headline of an article posted on 5 March 2020 on South African website Balynga

The article reports that Piet Mabotja, who is awaiting sentencing in a prison in the South African capital, Pretoria, was caught accessing Facebook on a forbidden cellphone. 

The article was flagged as potentially false after being shared on Facebook. We investigated.

Facebook updates from prison

Piet Mabotja’s arrest and trial has been extensively covered by the South African mainstream media. 

According to South African news outlet News24, Mabotja was arrested on 16 November 2018 and was awaiting trial in Kgosi Mampuru, a large prison in central Pretoria. 

On 4 March 2020, the newspaper Pretoria News reported he was given two life sentences for rape and murder, as well as additional time for other crimes including theft, robbery, and possession of an unlicensed firearm.

While he was in prison, awaiting his sentencing, News24 revealed that a Facebook account under the name “Peter Mabotja” had been updated with pictures of Mabotja, apparently taken inside the prison. 

The Facebook account is private, so only changes to its profile picture can be viewed by the general public. In one of these photos, Mabotja appears dressed in a formal white shirt, which looks very similar to the one he wore at his sentencing

In another photo, he appears to be taking part in a bodybuilding competition, with what looks like a Department of Correctional Services poster visible in the background.

News24 also reported on 5 March that a search had discovered a cellphone in Mabotja’s possession. Apparently further charges will be brought against him, for possession of contraband, or goods not allowed within the prison.

News24 quoted correctional services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo as saying Mabotja “will be charged, as it is a criminal offence to have a mobile phone inside a correctional facility”.

The Balynga article which was originally flagged on Facebook contains small errors, like misspelling “Mabotja”. It also does not make it clear that Mabotja had been found to be using Facebook on a cellphone before he was sentenced. But the essence of the story is true. – Keegan Leech


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