(AFP / Siphiwe Sibeko)

No, Ramaphosa did not call South African farm murders ‘a problem that only exists on the internet’

Multiple posts have been shared thousands of times on Facebook claiming that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told media this month that people are spreading fake news about farm murders, and that if the killings were “real news” they would be broadcast on TV. Despite the posts’ claim that the comments were made to a journalist on June 6, there is no trace of Ramaphosa making such remarks to a media outlet that day. 

The president’s spokeswoman told AFP that Ramaphosa never made these comments and had no public engagements on June 6 when he would have spoken to the media. 

The murder of farmers, many of them white, is a highly contentious issue in South Africa.

In one Facebook post, which we’ve archived here, Ramaphosa is quoted as saying the following in response to a question about farm murders being a priority for him: 

A screenshot taken on June 11, 2019 of a Facebook post which shared the comments falsely attributed to Ramaphosa

The misleading post says Ramaphosa also mentioned the “time when Donald Trump sent people to South Africa to investigate farm attacks”. However, that refers to a tweet on land ‘invasions’ by Trump that received backlash by the South African government -- read this AFP report.

Asked if Ramaphosa had made the remarks, his spokeswoman Khusela Diko told AFP that “the president has never said such”.

Diko also confirmed that Ramaphosa had no public engagements on June 6, 2019 where he could have addressed the media, as the misleading claim purports.

The post also claims that South Africa’s Deputy President David Mabuza said: “They should ask the Rhodesian [sic] what it’s actually like when the black government does not care about you”. 

Rhodesia was the pre-independence name of Zimbabwe.

On August 23, 2018, the same day as the Trump tweet, Mabuza spoke at the Land Summit in Bela Bela, Limpopo and discouraged the spread of ‘falsehoods’ that divide South Africans.

“We would like to discourage those who are using this sensitive and emotive issue of land to divide us as South Africans by distorting our land reform measures to the international community, and spreading falsehoods that our ‘white farmers’ are facing the onslaught from their own government. This is far from the truth,” said Mabuza.

But a basic internet search of the misleading Mabuza quote yielded no credible results -- just a few web pages that repeated the text of the misleading Facebook post. 

What has Ramaphosa actually said about farm murders?

Critics called Ramaphosa out in September last year for saying “there are no killings of farmers or white farmers in South Africa. There’s no land grab in South Africa”, in an interview with Bloomberg.

At the time, Diko was quoted in this news article saying Ramaphosa meant there were no “large scale killings of farmers” in response to Trump’s tweet.

“It is very unfortunate that anyone would want to deliberately distort the President’s remarks which were in direct response to ‘large scale killing of farmers’‚ a characterisation everyone knows holds no truth in South Africa,” said Diko. 

The scale of the problem of farm attacks is highly contentious in South Africa. 

AfriForum, an Afrikaner rights group, announced its latest farm attack statistics during a media conference on June 4. It gave the figure as 184 attacks and 20 murders for the first five months of the year in the whole of South Africa.

In this fact-check, we debunked claims that these figures referred to attacks in the Western Cape province alone.

Tendai Dube