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SA finance minister hoped illegal electricity connections were fake – they’re not

This article is more than 5 years old

South Africa’s finance minister, Tito Mboweni, used Twitter to express his shock over an image doing the rounds on social media.

The picture shows what appear to be illegal electricity connections running through a gaping hole in the wall of a face-brick building.

“Could this be true?” tweeted the minister, who has been branded “Tweeto” on the platform. “Stealing electricity at another level. We can’t live like this. No!! I hope this is fake.”

Africa Check took out its toolkit to answer the minister’s question.

Step 1: Conduct a reverse image search

A reverse image search is your first step when checking if a picture is real or fake.

Africa Check searched for the image on Google, but didn’t find any matches. However, we got lucky using another image search engine called Yandex.

Yandex is a Russia-based search engine which searches the internet for earlier versions of an image, helping you trace it back to its original source and location.

The engine didn’t find the exact image in Mboweni’s tweet but it did pick up the picture from a different angle in a 2015 Daily Sun article.

The newspaper said it was a photo of a municipal substation at the Airport Valley informal settlement near Walmer, Port Elizabeth, in the Eastern Cape province.

Step 2: Scour Google maps

We then headed over to Google Maps to track down the exact location of the substation.

The concrete fence in the background matched the fencing on the perimeter of the Port Elizabeth International Airport.

Google Maps’ street view covers much of the informal settlement that borders the airport. It allowed us to “walk” the roads around the fence until we spotted a building on Arvo Street that resembled the substation.

Step 3: Use a fact-checker on the ground

Google Maps only let us see one side of the building, however. We needed to get a clear view of the other side to confirm if it was the right substation.

We called a contact in neighbouring Walmer, who jumped in a car and went over to Arvo Street. The pictures he sent us confirmed that it was the same substation. They also showed that illegal connections were still in place on 14 December 2018.

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Africa Check sent questions to Nelson Mandela Bay metro’s media liaison Mthubanzi Mniki asking about the city’s plans to deal with the illegal connections. At the time of publishing, he had not responded. We will update this report if he does. - Cayley Clifford and Kate Wilkinson (14/12/2018)


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