South Africa: No Evidence South African Provincial Minister Nomusa Dube Made Racial Remark in 2011 Statement About Deadly Kwazulu-Natal Lightning Strikes

IN SHORT: An old quote attributed to then-provincial minister, now premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, has been circulating on social media in South Africa. While some of it is accurate about her response to a spate of lightning strikes in the province in 2011, there’s no evidence she said she had “never seen any white people being struck by lightning”.

Posts circulating on social media in January 2023 claim to show a statement made by a provincial minister in South Africa, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, in response to people being killed by lightning strikes in KwaZulu-Natal province.

The posts, here, here, here and here, show a screenshot of text that appears to be from a news article and includes a statement from Dube-Ncube, referred to as “Nomsa Dube”, alongside her photo.

Dube-Ncube was previously KwaZulu-Natal’s member of the executive committee (MEC) for cooperative governance and traditional affairs, but has been premier of the province since August 2022.

The claim dates back to at least 2020, but has resurfaced in early 2023, with some posts gaining thousands of views.

According to the posts, Dube-Ncube said, in part: “We will do an investigation and talk to the department of science and technology on what is the cause of the lightning, and if it only happened to the previously disadvantaged as I have never seen any white people being struck by lightning.”

But is this quote accurate? We investigated if Dube-Ncube really made this remark.

Original statement refers to events from early 2011

An internet search revealed that in January 2011 lightning strikes killing several people in KwaZulu-Natal were reported in articles by the British Guardian and local news outlets News24, Eyewitness News, Mail & Guardian and Times Live. Some include text almost identical to that in the social media posts.

Dube-Ncube’s statement was in response to this. At the time, it was believed that deaths from lightning were on the rise across the country. Following the news articles quoting the then-MEC, she was publicly criticised for saying the causes of the lightning should be “investigated”.

News articles at time didn’t include remark about race

The recent social media posts and the news articles from 2011 are similar. They both describe the events and Dube-Ncube’s response. But the original articles do not relay the remark about race – that “I have never seen any white people being struck by lightning” – which struck a chord with people sharing the screenshot in later years. “Lightning is racist now, OK,” responded one Twitter user. “When in doubt, blame white people,” commented another.

The rest of the quote in the screenshots correspond to the 2011 news reports. But Africa Check could find no credible evidence that Dube-Ncube said anything about white people being struck by lightning, or not, either in 2011 or in the years since.

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