Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday denied saying that black economic empowerment (BEE) is "coming to an end", identifying the websites publishing these words as a supposed quote by him as purveyors of "fake news"; also known as "lying".
In a Tweet on Wednesday morning, Ramaphosa published screenshots from two fake-news websites masquerading as news publishers, on which he is quoted as saying BEE would end soon and that "businesses should be treated equally".
In a story contained in a second screenshot, Ramaphosa is alleged to have launched Bitcoin Code -- "a platform that all but guarantees a bright financial future for South Africans" -- in partnership with a U.S. team. The fake news site also claims, falsely, that Ramaphosa made over R500-million as a "long-time Bitcoin enthusiast and early... investor".
The newly appointed ANC president, who is currently at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos, confirmed that both stories are fake:
"I have never said these words. BEE is ANC policy, to which we remain committed, and I have never endorsed Bitcoin," he said.
Both these stories are fake news. I have never said these words - BEE is ANC policy to which we remain committed and I have never endorsed Bitcoin. pic.twitter.com/vAwwouEYll— Cyril Ramaphosa (@CyrilRamaphosa) January 24, 2018
The fake news machine (still) in full swing
The fake-news website featuring the story on BEE, southafricauncut.com, has previously raised alarm about the dissemination of fantasy fiction masquerading as news. A domain information search of the website reveals it is hosted in Utah in the U.S., although the administrator organisation is listed as Gossip Mill SA, based in Pretoria.
A telephone number linked to the registrant Gossip Mill SA, with the Johannesburg area code 011, appears to lead to an automated loop or dead-end. A Facebook page under the same name and email address appears to have been set up in May 2016.
The second fake-news website flagged by Ramaphosa, news-24-now.com, is a clear knock-off of News24 – a legitimate site published by Media24 – with edited graphics superimposing Ramaphosa on a supposed CNN report.
News-24-now.com, based on a domain information search, appears to be registered in Panama. No further information on the owner of the domain was immediately obtainable.
Editor-in-chief of News24 Adriaan Basson on Twitter reiterated the article does not belong to the Media24 title, saying "more fraudsters [are] abusing our brand".
"Springing up like poisonous mushrooms, every day... The war on #FakeNews continues," said Basson.
IT Online SA, in response, called on the public to avoid clicking on fake news articles.
"Please be aware that clicking... can have serious consequences -- not only for your device's safety, but for the reputation of those in the articles, and those who forward them," IT Online tweeted.