No, Donald Trump and Boris Johnson did not tweet about ‘attacks’ in South Africa

Screenshots of two tweets that seem to show US president Donald Trump and UK prime minister Boris Johnson criticising the South African government are doing the rounds on Facebook.

The first, supposedly tweeted by @realDonaldTrump on 4 September 2019, reads: “This barbaric attacks by South African is very disappointing, its time we put South Africa under strong Economic Sanctions, first it was the minority White people now its African . Either Cyril get his people in line or we pull out all our investments and they learn”.

The second, under @BorisJonhson but with no date, reads: “We could not fold our hands and ignore what’s happening in South Africa .I strongly suggest that the President of South Africa will take responsibility of his compaining chants and stop this attacks, The west is fully prepared to pull out all its investments from South Africa.”

The screenshots were posted on the group page “Afrikaners” on 8 September 2019 and have been shared more than 1,000 times. 

But there are a number of clues that suggest the tweets may not be real. The poor grammar and spelling – though Trump sometimes misspells – is an immediate red flag. 

And Boris Johnson’s username is incorrect. On Twitter, you can find him under @BorisJohnson, not “@BorisJonhson”.

To be sure, we went through the archives. 

Trump’s tweets are presidential records

Since Trump became US president in January 2017 he has continued to tweet on his personal account @realDonaldTrump. Some of his posts are then retweeted on @potus – short for “president of the US”. 

It’s US law that the federal government owns and controls all presidential records. This means any communication by the president – including tweets – can’t be deleted. They must instead be archived and made available to the public.  

It’s also illegal for Trump to delete tweets while he is president. 

A number of websites are dedicated to keeping track of everything the 45th US president posts online. These include the Trump Twitter Archive and Factbase, which has a database of all Trump’s deleted tweets.  

Another site, Did Trump Tweet It, keeps a daily record of tweets and retweets on @realDonaldTrump and @potus, and would note if any tweet were deleted. 

Their record for 4 September 2019 does not include any tweet about “barbaric attacks” in South Africa. 

In fact, since Trump joined Twitter in 2009 he has tweeted about South Africa a total of 15 times. Most of the tweets complain about crime. The latest, from August 2018, was about “South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations”.

Johnson tweets on South Africa three times in five years

What about the Boris Johnson tweet? We found no evidence to suggest that he had tweeted about attacks in South Africa either. 

And an advanced Twitter search shows that since joining the platform in April 2015, Johnson has tweeted about South Africa a total of three times. The latest was a retweet of a blog about saving South Africa’s rhinos, from May 2018. 

And if either Trump or Johnson had threatened South Africa with economic sanctions, it would have been widely covered in the media. But no major media outlet has reported on the tweets. The screenshots are false, manipulated graphics. – Africa Check


 

Africa Check teams up with Facebook

Africa Check has partnered with Facebook to combat fake news and false information on the social platform. This fact-check is part of the initiative.

As part of its third-party fact-checking programme, Facebook allows its partners to see public articles, pictures or videos that have been flagged as potentially inaccurate.

Content rated as “false” by fact-checkers will be downgraded in news feeds. This means fewer people will see it.

You can help us identify fake news and false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.

© Copyright Africa Check 2020. Read our republishing guidelines. You may reproduce this piece or content from it for the purpose of reporting and/or discussing news and current events. This is subject to: Crediting Africa Check in the byline, keeping all hyperlinks to the sources used and adding this sentence at the end of your publication: “This report was written by Africa Check, a non-partisan fact-checking organisation. View the original piece on their website", with a link back to this page.