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American ‘poisoned water bottles’ hoax hits South Africa

This article is more than 5 years old

“Law enforcement and government officials have been alerted to someone injecting poison into water bottles,” a message circulating on social media in South Africa has warned.

The message says the warning comes from “the sheriff” and claims “a few people” have died from the poisoned bottled water in the “Richmond area”.

Hoax debunked last year

The messages are not new. Fact-checking website Snopes debunked the story when it did the rounds in the United States in 2018.

Snopes says the hoax has been circulating on Facebook, Twitter, text and email since at least March last year. It could be based on a video posted to Facebook that shows leaky water bottles with holes in the lids.

“If any of it were true you’d have heard about it from a more reliable source than an Internet meme,” Snopes concluded.

No official reports in South Africa

The message claims people in the “Richmond area” have already died. But it does not say which country, province or state this area is in.

At least three places in South Africa are called Richmond: a suburb in Gauteng province, a municipality in KwaZulu-Natal province and a town in the Northern Cape province.

Lieutenant Colonel Thulani Zwane, a spokesperson for the South African police service in KwaZulu-Natal, said there had been no reports of poisoning in the province. Richmond town police station commander, Captain Mzingisi Yekani, said the same.

Captain Kay Makhubela, spokesperson for the police in Gauteng, said they were not aware of reported incidents.

Africa Check could not get a hold of an official spokesperson for the Northern Cape police. - Africa Check (24/01/2019)


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