Two videos show arms and ammunition smuggled into Brazil and Nigeria, not South Africa

·4 min read

 Amid xenophobic online discussions in South Africa spurred on by a spate of mass shootings, social media users have shared two videos that are purported to show how weapons are smuggled into the country by foreigners. In both cases, the claims are false. One video was taken in Brazil in July 2019, and the second was filmed in Nigeria following a series of arrests linked to violent crimes.

South Africa has one of the world's highest murder rates, but a spate of mass shootings in the last month which have seen more than 20 people killed (here and here) has shocked even battle-hardened citizens.

With only a few arrests in the bag so far, foreign nationals – without any evidence – have been blamed online for these crimes and the general state of insecurity in the country.

One example is a video tweeted here and here in July 2022 showing a man being cut out of several layers of clothing to reveal thousands of bullet shells taped to his legs.

“You wonder where do arms and ammunition that are killing South Africans come from. They're smuggled into South Africa by our ‘African brothers’, to be used to commit mass murders, car hijackings (sic),” reads one of the tweets.

A screenshot of the false tweet, taken on July 18, 2022

The tweet includes the hashtags: #PutSouthAficansFirst #OperationDudula, giving many the impression that the video shows an incident in South Africa.

Operation Dudula, which means “push back” in Zulu, is a group that claims to be ridding the country of illegal foreigners.

Meanwhile, #PutSouthAfricansFirst is a campaign with similar intentions and its supporters often resort to xenophobic and divisive language on social media (see reports here and here).

The claims, however, linking the video to foreigners in South Africa are false.

Brazilian bust

Some users in the comments section remarked that the clip of the man with bullet shells taped to his legs was taken in Brazil, which AFP Fact Check confirmed with a series of keyword searches and reverse image searches.

A screenshot of comments on the tweet, taken on July 2022

We found Portuguese news reports (here and here) based on information from Brazil’s Federal Highway Police (PRF) after they had seized nearly 2,500 9mm rounds of ammunition and three guns on July 25, 2019, attached to two male passengers on their way from Foz do Iguaçu in Paraná to Rio de Janeiro.

The video shows one of these individuals, who was said to be 17 at the time.

A screenshot of an article on DefesaNet, taken on July 22, 2022

Spilling the beans

A second video being shared in a misleading context by Facebook accounts in South Africa (here and here) shows a group of men unpacking several rifles concealed in a bag of grain.

A caption from one of the posts reads: “One cannot smuggle such machinery for fun..Foreigners are doing things under the sleepy eyes of our intelligence...unaware we are at war with the foreigners.”

A screenshot of the misleading Facebook post, taken on July 20, 2022

However, a reverse image search on keyframes from the footage revealed the video has been online since May 2022 and shows Nigerian police uncovering concealed weapons, according to a report uploaded to YouTube by Sahara TV.

The Nigerian Police Force tweeted about this bust and other major seizures and arrests in a thread on May 13, 2022.

Among those apprehended following “credible intelligence of an impending arms movement from Jos” – a city in Nigeria – were two men found with two AK47 rifles and 51 rounds of live ammunition concealed in a sack of beans.

AFP Fact Check reporters in Nigeria confirmed that the “blue-yellow-green colours of the Nigerian police can be seen on the wall” in the video and that Hausa, which is spoken in northern Nigeria, can be heard.

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