South African prisoners to earn salary? Facebook post copied from satire

A Facebook post from March 2017 claims that South African prisoners will “get a monthly salary and bonus when done serving their time”.

The two-year-old post has been shared over 3,800 times and continues to do the rounds. Facebook users flagged it as potentially false, and a Twitter user asked us to check the claim, so we had a look.   

Post traced back to satire article

The post claims the department of correctional services announced a new law that prisoners would get a monthly salary of between R3,000 and R10,000, depending on the job they were doing, and a bonus once they had completed their sentences. This money would help prisoners “start off in life”, the post claims.

The post seems to have been copied from an online story in the Southern Daily. Written by a “staff reporter”, the story quotes a Mr FK Nyathi from the corrections department. “Inmates while inside of prison do many different type of jobs, ranging from cooking, cleaning, to doing the garden and we have decided to pay them for their hard work,” Nyathi is quoted as saying.  

The Southern Daily describes itself as a Zimbabwean owned but South African operated internet portal for casual news and friendly satire.

‘Think twice about trusting, thrice about sharing’

Media Monitoring Africa, an independent non-profit organisation that promotes media freedom, has developed the Know News tool to help people identify whether a website is credible or not.

When we used the tool to test the Southern Daily website, a warning appeared: “This site may contain dodgy news. Think twice about trusting any story. Think thrice about sharing.”

Indeed, the site crawls with dodgy news headlines such as “Donald Trump shot by Muslim woman on stage at rally” or “Woman turns into leopard after trying to bleach her skin”.

The story about prisoners receiving a salary is credited to Die Son, an Afrikaans language tabloid. The details are the same but one important concluding sentence bears repeating: “commenting on the matter, many inmates revealed that this is too good to be true, and that’s because it is” (emphasis ours).

The satire article made its way onto Facebook, where many have taken it as the truth.

‘It can never be called a salary”

While South African prisoners don’t earn a salary, they can collect what is called “gratuity”, Singabakho Nxumalo, spokesperson for the correctional services department, told Africa Check.

It’s a form of compensation for work done by prisoners, such as cooking or maintenance.

“But remember, in prison, it’s a moneyless system,” Nxumalo said. “So the gratuity can only be used to buy maybe toiletries or things from the tuck shop… but it’s so small, it can never be called a salary.”

Nor do prisoners receive a bonus after “serving their time”, Nxumalo said.  

– Africa Check (02/05/19)


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.

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