Three South African policemen arrested for armed robbery and kidnapping in 2019, not 2022

An image showing three handcuffed police officers has been shared on Facebook in South Africa alongside a claim that they were recently arrested for stealing from the “poor”. But the photo has been used in a misleading context: it actually shows officers arrested in the Western Cape province in 2019 for allegedly committing various offences.

The post was published on Facebook on February 2, 2022, and has since been shared nearly 70 times.

“EARLIER TODAY: Three ANC cops arrested for looting from the poor (sic),” the post reads. ANC stands for African National Congress, the ruling party in South Africa.

Screenshot showing the misleading post, taken on March 1, 2022

But the image does not show police officers arrested in South Africa in February 2022.

2019 arrests

Using a reverse image search, AFP Fact Check traced the photo to a statement released by the South African Police Service (SAPS) on September 15, 2019.

It states the officers were arrested for “armed robbery, defeating the ends of justice and kidnapping” in South Africa’s Western Cape province.

The three, attached to the SAPS major offences reaction team, were arrested on September 12, 2019, and accused of allegedly stealing a cargo load of illicit abalone which was being transported in a minibus taxi. They appeared in court on September 16, 2021.

South African news outlets (including here, here and here) used the picture as part of their coverage of the story. 

Abalone has been plundered from the South African coastline for years by organised crime syndicates who ship the lucrative mollusc to the Far East, where it fetches high prices and is regarded as a delicacy.

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