This video shows an oil tanker explosion in Tanzania, not foreigners burned to death in South Africa
A video showing charred dead bodies has been shared thousands of times on social media this month, alongside claims that it shows foreign nationals killed during the recent xenophobic unrest in South Africa. In fact, the video was filmed in August after a fatal oil tanker explosion in Tanzania.
Attention: this post contains images that readers may find distressing.
“Graphic heartbreaking aftermath scenes of burnt foreign nationals, especially Nigerian and their properties on South African soil in the ongoing #Xenophobia attacks. NOTE: VIEWERS DISCRETION ADVICED #SayNoToXenophobia #OfieNewsRoom,” reads the caption on one Facebook post carrying the footage. The post, which we’ve archived here, has been shared over 2,600 times since it was published on September 3.
Multiple posts sharing the footage alongside a similar narrative have appeared online, including here and here.
As reported by AFP, at least twelve people have been killed since the start of the month in a wave of violence mainly targeted at foreigners and foreign-owned businesses in and around South Africa's Johannesburg.
The violence resulted in the destruction of hundreds of shops in South Africa, while the Nigerian government has said it is repatriating about 600 of its citizens who no longer feel safe in the country.
The video is made up of two pieces of footage: the first showing charred bodies on the ground, and the second showing thick black smoke from a large fire rising into the sky.
The first sign that the first part of the footage was not filmed during this month’s South African unrest is that it shows more dead bodies than the overall death toll of 12. Those killed in the South African violence have also lost their lives in different locations -- the scene here would suggest that all 12 must have died in the same place.
Some readers commenting on the posts said they didn’t believe the footage was filmed in South Africa, but in Tanzania after a fatal fuel truck explosion.
An internet search proved they were correct.
Fifty-seven people were burned to death on August 10 after a fuel tanker exploded near Morogogo in Tanzania. As reported by AFP in the days after the explosion, more people later succumbed to their injuries and the death toll climbed to 100.
The explosion engulfed a crowd of people who were siphoning petrol from the overturned tanker, many of them motorbike taxi drivers who had rushed to the scene.
Officials said the explosion was triggered when a man tried to take the truck's battery, creating sparks that ignited the fuel.
Comparing an Al Jazeera video of the Tanzanian accident that had been shared in the comments on the misleading post, and a tweet containing a longer, more graphic version of the video, AFP confirmed that the footage really is from the Tanzanian tragedy.
A woman wearing a yellow hoodie with a black headscarf can be seen in both videos, along with a pile of charred motorbikes.
The second part of the video is from South Africa
The second part of the video really was filmed during the recent violence in South Africa. It shows a woman in a pink shirt crying frantically that her baby has been killed in the fire seen in the background.
“He’s dead, there he is.. [inaudible], they killed my child, why did they kill my child? Why didn't they kill me?” the woman cries out in Tswana.
Numerous posts shared the video of the crying woman on social media, sympathising with the mother and condemning South Africans for the unrest, as seen here and here.
Comments on some of the posts said the location was Marabastad, an informal settlement in Pretoria which was affected by the anti-foreigner violence. And a basic search of “Marabastad fire” finds a news report by eNCA on Sept 2.
The reporter explains how social media posts had said a baby had been burnt to death, but in fact it turned out that it was a charred doll that had been found. “No one was harmed,” he says. The mother from the blurry video is seen once again wearing pink in the news report -- however, she carries her baby on her back.
The mother introduces the man she says rescued the baby from one of the burning homes.
Numerous videos and images were shared on social media this month, purporting to show the anti-foreigner attacks. However many of them, like this, were either old content, visuals from other countries or videos that were unrelated to xenophobia attacks at all -- further fuelling tensions over xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
Additional misleading posts saying that South Africa’s Nigeria embassy had been bombed and that Nigerians were being deported en masse have also been shared widely on social media since the start of the month.