Video shows protesters clashing with S. Africa police, not Nigerians celebrating semifinal win


Nigeria extinguished South Africa’s dreams of reaching the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) final, after a 4-2 shootout victory in the semis. Several videos on social media showed the West African nation’s fans celebrating the win, among them a post claiming to share footage of unruly Nigerian supporters clashing with police in Johannesburg’s business district. But the claim is false; the video, filmed in 2019, shows police officers in Johannesburg trying to quell protests by street traders and retreating under a barrage of rocks.

“There was a wild celebration by Nigerians in Johannesburg after their victory over Bafana Bafana in the AFCON. Police tried to intervene by they were overpowered (sic)!”, reads an X post published on February 8, 2024.

The account that published the post is affiliated with the anti-migrant vigilante group “Operation Dudula” — “to force out” in isiZulu — which is accused of xenophobic rhetoric and spreading disinformation (archived here).

The movement-turned-political party has registered to contest South Africa’s general election in a few months (archived here and here).

In the 30-second clip filmed from an inner city highrise building, police officers are seen retreating from a large group of people pelting them with rocks.

<span>A screenshot of the false X post, taken on February 12, 2024</span>

A screenshot of the false X post, taken on February 12, 2024

The video has been used out of context before, including in 2020 where it circulated alongside false claims that it showed a protest against Covid-19 vaccines (archived here).

The replies to the latest post indicate that most people were aware the video was old.

<span>Screenshot of replies to the post, taken on February 12, 2024</span>

Screenshot of replies to the post, taken on February 12, 2024

One response includes a screenshot of the video as it appears on YouTube dated August 1, 2019 (archived here).

“I reported you for false news! It is people like you that cause trouble with the crap you post,” reads the reply.

Football frenzy

AFCON 2024 was hailed as one of the most exciting editions in recent memory. Nigeria beat South Africa 4-2 in a penalty shootout after a semifinal thriller in Bouake, Ivory Coast on February 7, 2024 (archive here).

The tournament ended with hosts Ivory Coast lifting the trophy for the third time, after beating Nigeria in the final. South Africa took the bronze with victory over the Democratic Republic of Congo in the playoff for third and fourth places (archived here and here).

Nigerian football fans worldwide were seen celebrating the semifinal win over South Africa’s Bafana Bafana, as the team is known (archived here).

However, the video circulating is unrelated to AFCON.

Hawkers protest

A keyword search of “Joburg CBD unrest 2019 eNCA” — guided by the screenshot in the replies — quickly finds the YouTube video published by the South African news broadcaster eNCA (archived here).

Titled “Joburg CBD unrest”, the news report and the clip are identical, featuring South African armoured police vehicles, a red roof, a green roof on the left and a red sign on the right.

<span>Screenshots marked to show that the video circulating (left) is the same as the 2019 news report (right)</span>

Screenshots marked to show that the video circulating (left) is the same as the 2019 news report (right)

On August 1, 2019, South African police said a large crowd of foreign nationals attacked members of various law enforcement agencies with objects including bricks and petrol bombs (archived here).

This was during an “operation targeting counterfeit goods in the Johannesburg central business district”.

“Due to the volatility of the situation, police retreated to avoid a situation where they would be forced to use live ammunition,” read the statement. “Of priority at this point was ensuring that there was no bloodshed or death.”

AFP Fact Check recently debunked another video that some claimed showed Nigerian celebrations (including here and here), but it instead showed a May 2023 march in the Dominican Republic.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch flagged xenophobic sentiment and violence against Africans and Asians as a concern in its 2024 report on South Africa ahead of elections (archived here and here).

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