“Shame on you SA!! He was burnt to death. Why? He's of different nationality,” read a tweet during the recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa. The accompanying picture shows a crowd surrounding a charred body. All that remains are two legs sticking out of a pile of ashes.
Another picture circulating online appears to show a man engulfed by flames in front of two South African police officers.
Gruesome pictures have been shared on social media and blogs over the last weeks, supposedly of the xenophobic violence that recently flared up in South Africa. A number of them have been found to be unrelated to the current violence.
The pictures were shared to condemn the violence. But are they genuine?
A widely shared image of violence
This picture shows the charred remains of a suspected robber in Nigeria. Africa Check has blurred the image." />
The image of the remains of a burnt body has done the rounds on social media and blogs.
One blog posted the image saying that it showed the “[r]emains of a foreigner burned by South Africans in Durban”. Another website said that the image confirmed the “level of xenophobic attacks going on in South Africa” (UPDATE: this artice has been removed due to its unreal nature). The image was also posted on a Nigerian discussion forum with the caption “[l]ast week in Durban, SA”.
Another blog included the picture in a gallery of graphic images purporting to show “horrible photos of South Africans butchering and burning other blacks”. (Warning: this link contains graphic images.)
It dates back years; possibly to Warri, Nigeria
We uploaded the picture to Google Image Search to trace its origin. Google’s “best guess” for the image was “armed robber”. It listed a number of web pages that contained it.
Africa Check was unable to verify the exact origin of the picture but the image history shows it was posted on numerous websites long before the recent outbreak of attacks in South Africa.
One article, published in July 2014, said that the picture showed a suspected armed robber that had been burnt to death “after dispossessing church members of their belongings at gunpoint” in Delta State, Nigeria.
A website with comments dating back to August 2012 and a news article from January 2013 said that the picture showed the remains of a suspected robber that had been set alight after robbing and killing a pregnant woman in Warri, Nigeria.
This picture shows Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave, a victim of xenophobic violence in South Africa in 2008. Africa Check has blurred the image." />
Another image is from 2008
The image of a man on his hands and knees engulfed by flames while South African policemen look on was being shared on Facebook, attributed to recent events, a reader wrote to us to say.
This one was easier to verify.
The picture was taken during the outbreak of xenophobic attacks in 2008 and shows Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave, a Mozambican national, after he was set on fire outside Johannesburg.
No one was charged with his murder and the investigation was officially closed in October 2010.
Conclusion: Share images with caution
The widely shared image of two legs sticking out of a pile of ash is not from the recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa. Although the origin of the picture could not be confirmed, it appears to be of a suspected robber in Nigeria.
Another picture doing the rounds on social media - of a man engulfed in flames - shows a victim of xenophobic violence in 2008.
Gruesome images spread quickly on social media. While they may be shared with good intentions, they can also be used to stir tensions further, and care should always be taken to verify an image before it is shared. Free online tools are available to help.
In situations where tensions are already high, passing on gruesome images from unrelated incidents can cause more harm then good.
Edited by Anim van Wyk
GUIDE: How to spot fakes and hoaxes online
Boko Haram ‘massacre’ image fake
Story of ‘gutsy bravehearts’ who fought off Boko Haram is a hoax