No, US President Donald Trump did not tweet about Botswana and South Africa pledging troops to fight Iran

Screenshots shared thousands of times on Facebook and Instagram purport to show two tweets from US President Donald Trump’s official account claiming Botswana and South Africa had pledged military support in the event of a war against Iran. But Trump did not write these tweets: both were fabricated.

The first screenshot shows a tweet purportedly by Trump that gives the impression that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has agreed to reinstate conscription - which ended in 1993 - should the United States need troops in a conflict against Iran.

A screenshot of a purported tweet by US President Donald Trump

On Facebook, it has been shared 7,900 times and viewed more than 700,000 times, with another 20,000 views on Instagram. We’ve archived several of the posts sharing it here, here and here.

The second screenshot of a tweet purportedly by Trump claims that in a phone call with the US president, Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi committed 10,000 troops and another 5,000 “Batswana who will be picked randomly by his force”.

A screenshot of another purported tweet by US President Donald Trump

It has racked up 630,000 views on Facebook and been shared 6,900 times. We’ve archived several posts sharing it here, here and here.

One Facebook account here posted both screenshots along with various pictures (see samples below) that clearly spoof the idea of troop deployments by the two southern African nations.

The fake Trump tweets spawned various spoof pictures of "soldiers" preparing for "war" and "armed" with household appliances

The spoof pictures show “soldiers” disguised in mock “war” garb and “armed” with household appliances like irons, ironing boards, umbrellas, ammunition belts made from toilet rolls, camping chairs and frying pans.

Clues the tweets are fake

Below is a screenshot of a genuine tweet from Trump’s account.

An example of a real tweet on US President Donald Trump's Twitter account

The false tweets, below, have different fonts to Twitter's customary type. Although the one on the left is less obvious, the Retweets and Likes are distinctly larger than usual while the letters are broader.

US President Donald Trump's supposedly tweeted about the presidents of South Africa and Botswana

The datelines are also wrong - Twitter uses the format month/day/year, like this: Jan 7, 2020.

The fake tweets have placed the day first and the one on the left has omitted half of 2020.

Furthermore, neither appear in Trump’s Twitter timeline.

AFP verified this using Trump Twitter Archive, an online tool which documents all of Trump’s tweets and allows searches on individual words and phrases.

Our searches show Trump has never used the words “Cyril” or “Masisi”.

A screenshot of a search result for the name "Cyril" in an archive of US President Donald Trump's tweets
"Masisi" does not appear as a search item in US President Donald Trump's archive of tweets

Below are screenshots of his Twitter activity on January 6, 2020 and the sole tweet from January 8, 2020.

A screenshot of US President Donald Trump's official tweets on January 6, 2020

Robert Mearkle, US embassy spokesman in Pretoria, confirmed the two screenshots attributed to Trump were “fake”.

AFP will add comment from the presidencies of both South Africa and Botswana, should they respond to our email requests.

But this January 8, 2020 response on Twitter from Athi Geleba, head of digital communications in Ramaphosa’s office, dismissed one of the purported Trump “tweets” outright.

Geleba’s tweet, in turn, was retweeted by the government’s foreign affairs department, officially known as International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO).

A screenshot from the Twitter account of South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation

Ramaphosa’s government issued a statement calling for restraint following the US strike on January 3, 2020, which killed Iranian commander General Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad, Iraq.

Brett Horner