No, South African university not offering witchcraft course – it’s just satire

An article on the website Ihlaya News reports that the University of Venda is planning to introduce a course on witchcraft that will include classes on “lightning” and “thunder”.

Written by “Not Trevor Noah”, the article says all training would be held at night and some would require students to be naked during class. 

It quotes an unnamed head of faculty as saying what they have seen so far is “way beyond science” and that students will be equipped to “open portals to other dimensions that are not known by scientists”.

‘Fiction, poor satire attempt…’

The article was flagged as possibly false by Facebook’s fact-checking system. But it’s not false – or true. It’s satire.

“Ihlaya News” roughly translates, from isiZulu, as “crazy person news”. The site’s tagline is “nuusparodie waarvan jy hou” – Afrikaans for “news parody that you like”.

And a disclaimer at the bottom of the page reads: “My name is Travis Gumba, not Trevor Gumbi and definitely not Trevor Noah 1. Posts on this website may contain traces of truth. 2. All articles on this website have insufficient truth. 3. The truth in our articles is nowhere to be found. 4. The prophecies in our articles are accidental. 6. I accidentally wrote 6 before 5. 5. Fiction, poor satire attempt and news parody. 7. Don’t tell people about this website.”

Parody of tabloid reporting

The article is a parody of existing stereotypes about witchcraft in South Africa, particularly in Limpopo province, home of the University of Venda.

The satirical story has been so widespread it prompted the university to issue a statement on their website in October 2019, condemning the article as misleading and “fake news”.

Reports of witchcraft being offered as a qualification at South African universities are not new.

In 2016 an article on the Nigerian tabloid Pulse reported – falsely – that South Africa’s minister of higher education, Blade Nzimande, had proposed the introduction of a bachelor of science degree in witchcraft. 

Headlines such as “BSc Degree in Witchcraft – South African Varsities go spiritual” were soon published and republished by blogs and junk news websites across Africa. All the reports were false. – 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.