Most of the text messages, videos and pictures circulated to intimidate foreign nationals are fake or old, according to national South African Police Service (SAPS) spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo.
“99% of them are either old or they are fake, or they are not from this country,” he told News24.
He mentioned a video on social media of a man who was burnt alive, saying “that happened in January this year”.
“Far too many people are posting fake and old messages, pictures and videos and some of them are gruesome. This has the potential to incite further violence,” he said.
News24 has seen many threatening messages aimed at foreign nationals in South Africa, as well as violent videos, but the authenticity of these have not been confirmed.
One message was purported to have been “published by News24”.
It claimed that main roads would be blocked in Johannesburg due to protests and quoted a “spokesperson T Gumbersita” who appealed to employers to let their employees leave work early.
News24 has never published this – neither before, nor after it was posted.
Earlier on Tuesday morning, Gauteng education department spokesperson Steve Mabona said the department had received messages “regarding disruptions due to an insinuation that there is a vehicle kidnapping children and burning schools in and around Katlehong”.
“Subsequently, parents are panicking, fetching their children from schools,” he said.
However, Mabona said Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi found no burning of schools when he visited the area.
“MEC Lesufi is this afternoon visiting Lungisani Primary School which was reported to be on fire. We wish to inform that there is no school burnt.”
Among the messages were some that warned foreign nationals to leave before a certain date, threatening to “kill them” if they did not.
There were also messages that promised to ramp up unrest because foreign nationals have killed people since the unrest started.
“It doesn’t matter what they post, the fact that they are posting, it causes a problem,” Naidoo said.
“In 2008 we had the same thing we had earlier in the year… the same messages seem to be coming up [again], some of them slightly modified,” he continued.
While foreign nationals fear for their lives, Naidoo reassured everyone in this regard.
“People should not be phased by these messages and we have put measures in place to ensure the safety of everyone in South Africa.”