Fabricated story about SA woman bust with counterfeit money aims to smear Nigerians

Anti-migrant sentiment in South Africa continues to spread on social media as the country prepares for national elections this year. Posts have emerged claiming that an image shows an elderly woman arrested for using counterfeit money she had received from her Nigerian future son-in-law. This is false: police confirmed the claim was fabricated while the image stems from an unrelated raid in 2021.

“An elderly woman from Jukulyn, Pretoria in Gauteng has been arrested at Shoprite store for using fake money to buy groceries,” reads an X post published on January 27, 2024.

“It is alleged that the money is from her Nigerian son in law who has just paid them R95,000 lobola for the bride with fake money,” it adds

Lobola is an African custom, a form of dowry – this can be cattle or money – typically paid to a bride’s family before marriage (archived here).

The post also claims police arrested four family members after they spent the counterfeit dowry paid to them by a Nigerian man called “Kelechi Johnson Adegoke”.

The picture featured in the post shows bundles of South African rands on the floor, with four people in the background and their heads out of frame.

<img class="caas-img caas-lazy has-preview" alt="A screenshot of the false X post, taken on January 29, 2024” data-src=”https://thenewswave.xyz/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/fabricated-story-about-sa-woman-bust-with-counterfeit-money-aims-to-smear-nigerians.jpg”><img alt="A screenshot of the false X post, taken on January 29, 2024” src=”https://thenewswave.xyz/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/fabricated-story-about-sa-woman-bust-with-counterfeit-money-aims-to-smear-nigerians.jpg” class=”caas-img”>

A screenshot of the false X post, taken on January 29, 2024

Some social media users appeared to believe the claims – sparking inflammatory responses – while others shared evidence to refute them.

<img class="caas-img caas-lazy has-preview" alt="A screenshot of the replies to the X post, taken on January 29, 2024” data-src=”https://thenewswave.xyz/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/fabricated-story-about-sa-woman-bust-with-counterfeit-money-aims-to-smear-nigerians-1.jpg”><img alt="A screenshot of the replies to the X post, taken on January 29, 2024” src=”https://thenewswave.xyz/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/fabricated-story-about-sa-woman-bust-with-counterfeit-money-aims-to-smear-nigerians-1.jpg” class=”caas-img”>

A screenshot of the replies to the X post, taken on January 29, 2024

The claim quickly spread to other platforms, including blogs, Facebook and TikTok.

Tall tale

“Is it the same four suspects that were arrested in 2021, or this is a made-up story?” asked a commenter on X (archived here) who shared a screenshot from the official Facebook account of the South African Police Service (SAPS).

AFP Fact Check followed up with a keyword search on the SAPS page and found a post from 2021 with the same image but in a different context (archived here).

Four suspects were arrested on August 20, 2021, for allegedly possessing counterfeit banknotes worth R2 million (US$106,000).

The statement does not mention details pertinent to the false posts about a Nigerian man paying lobola with fake money.

The SAPS also refuted the false claim on January 27, 2024 (archived here).

“The police would like to repudiate those allegations. The police visited a local store and spoke to the manager who denied claims that their store caught anyone paying with fake money,” it said.

“There is also no such case registered at Rietgat and the neighbouring police stations.”

The hoax is part of persistent anti-immigrant tensions in South Africa stirred by vigilante vigilante groups who blame South Africa’s high unemployment rate and soaring crime statistics on the influx of foreigners (archived here).

Human Rights Watch highlighted xenophobic attitudes and violence against Africans and Asians as a concern in its 2024 report on South Africa ahead of elections this year (archived here and here).

AFP Fact Check has previously reported on misleading social media posts fuelling xenophobic tensions in the country.

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