Ayanda Dlodlo, the South Africa Minister of Home Affairs, pushed back against a hoax claiming that she said “South Africans living in other countries like Cape Town must come back home in order for us to be able to help them.”
A statement released by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) on 22 January, says Dlodlo “reacted with outrage towards a fake news article that was published on social media.”
The supposed article came from a headline, of a known fake news website, gossipmillsa.com. The article on the website, invented the following story and quote: “Speaking in Pretoria on Thursday morning, Dlodlo said the news hurt her because even if the South African government is willing to assist, its hands are tired because the South African government can only help its people if they are here in the country.”
The above quote is patently false per the statement from the Department of Home Affairs, and no credible South African news outlet covered the supposed event and statements claimed by the gossipmillsa.com website.
Gossipmillsa.com’s owners are not known, because of a domain privacy protection – the website was according to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICAAN), first registered on 25 April 2016. And since it was established it has been running bizarre stories such “3 men arrested for attempting to assassinate Thuli Madonsela”, “Sfiso Ncwane is not dead he was turned into a Zombie and I can bring him back said a sangoma”, and “300 million missing from SANDF account Brian Molefe was recently granted access to.” All articles on the gossipmillsa.com website, are attributed to a Jade Wilson – which is also probably a fake name. There are also no contact details on the website.
South Africa has seen the proliferation of fake news websites in recent years, and many have used seemingly genuine reports to confuse an unaware South African public, which usually shares the fake news on social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp, without checking the source or cross referencing with reputable mainstream news websites, the veracity of the claims made by the so-called reports.
As it stands, there is no official list of fake news websites in South Africa, however, a crowd-sourced list indicates the following, among others, as being fake news websites: mzansitimes.com, citysun.co.za, gossipmillsa.com, mzansilive.co.za, imzansi.com, etc.
It is unclear what the authorities, not least the Department of Home Affairs, will do to combat fake news.
In an interview Political Analysis South Africa had with Mava Scott, who is Minister Dlodlo’s spokesperson, he said “we cannot have cyber police”, government should possibly consider prosecuting “anybody who does fake news.” He believes that in cases where a story claiming to be from the government, using a “government logo and so on” the government “can unleash the Hawks [South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation] or whoever it is, to investigate the case, get the people, prosecute them and take them to jail.”
Scott is, however, unsure how the public would react, but says the move to punish fake news peddlers demonstrates “disdain for this kind of behaviour.”