(AFP / Robyn Beck)

This meme uses doctored photos to attack South African actress Charlize Theron

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A Facebook post shared more than 4,000 times purports to show that Academy Award-winning South African actress Charlize Theron has been funding the ruling African National Congress party and opposition Economic Freedom Fighters. However, it uses doctored photos to support its claim. The ANC told us it had no record of the donations mentioned in the meme. 

The post, which we’ve archived here, shows two images of Theron, one behind a podium that reads “Black Rights Campaign” and another in which she’s seen wearing what looks like a supporter’s t-shirt depicting the face of Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party.

A misleading meme saved on April 23, 2019 from a post on Facebook

The same meme can also be found in a vulgar tweet posted on March 12, 2018. The account has since been suspended. 

A screenshot taken on May 22, 2019 of an archived tweet that used the meme

A reverse image search of the meme returned very few results. However, cropping each image out of the collage and running a fresh reverse search revealed that both pictures of Theron are doctored versions of photos taken in 2012.

The first shows her speaking at a Human Rights Campaign event in Los Angeles. In the meme, it’s been edited to replace the “Human Rights Campaign” sign with a “Black Rights Campaign” one.

A screenshot taken on April 23, 2019 of the image on Getty. Photo by Frederick M. Brown

The second photo was taken as part of Theron’s campaigning work against HIV. In the meme, her t-shirt was digitally altered to replace the logo of her Africa Outreach Project with a picture of Malema, and the sign to replace the HIV message with a “black power” clenched fist.

A screenshot taken on 23 April, 2019 of a post on the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project Facebook page

Our next step was to try to figure out if the newspaper article that appears between the two images was genuine. A reverse image search linked it to a 2014 tweet by a former South African actress, but few other leads. 

We then tried a text search for “Charlize Theron ANC donor” and other related terms, such as “Charlize Theron funds ANC” and “Charlize Theron funds EFF” . They yielded no online versions of the article that appears in the meme, and surprisingly few other related results for a claim involving a high-profile actress and major South African political parties. 

The only similar news article was this short post in Afrikaans, published on March 28, 2013, which cited the same alleged donation figures as the article used in the meme. It gave no source for this information.

An article in Afrikaans made the same unverified claims about political donations by Theron, in 2013

We contacted Theron’s representatives, the ANC and the EFF to ask about the claims made in the meme. Theron’s representatives in Los Angeles, as well as the EFF, have yet to get back to us. 

However, ANC spokesman Dakota Legeota told AFP that he had inquired with the party’s treasurer-general Paul Mashatile and the ANC Women’s League and they were unaware of the donations mentioned in the meme. 

“They don’t have knowledge of that money, I’ve even checked with the women’s league,” said Legoete.

Theron is discreet about her political views and we were unable to find any public declaration of support for any South African political party including the ANC, which has governed since the end of apartheid. 

She met Nelson Mandela in 2004 and has spoken of how how he influenced her campaigning work combating HIV. She also met then-president Jacob Zuma in 2013 to discuss the fight against the disease.

She has expressed concern over racism in the United States where she is raising two black children, both of them adopted.