South African minister’s Wikipedia page falsely claims he is Zimbabwean


After South Africa’s new government was unveiled in late June, online users shared viral Wikipedia screenshots that allegedly proved that Home Affairs Minister Leon Schreiber was born in Zimbabwe. However, AFP Fact Check found that his Wikipedia entry had been edited multiple times in the space of a few hours after the cabinet announcement, before reverting to the original version created in 2020, which lists South Africa’s Namaqualand as Schreiber’s birthplace.

“BREAKING NEWS: Republic of South Africa demands answers as DA Home Affairs Minister Leon Schreiber, accused of being a Zimbabwean expatriate, is given a key position in the country (sic)“, says one X-message published on June 30, 2024.

AFP Fact Check has debunked claims from this account in the past.

The final post contains four Wikipedia screenshots of Schreiber’s page: two highlight his new role in government and two mark his birthplace, Zimbabwe.

<span>Screenshot of the message with the incorrect place of birth circled in red</span>” data-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU5Nw–/″/><span><knop klasse=

Screenshot of the message with the incorrect place of birth circled in red

The post adds: “On Wikipedia, Leon’s place of birth was changed from Zimbabwe to South Africa 5 hours ago, this is happening while South Africa is watching.”

<span>Screenshot of the fake X-post, taken on July 3, 2024</span>” data-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTY0NA–/″/></p>
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Screenshot of the fake X-post, taken on July 3, 2024

The claim was shared thousands more times on X posts here And hereOne of the accounts is dedicated to the anti-immigration movement that evolved into the political party Put South Africa First, which has been debunked several times by AFP Fact Check.

The screenshots surfaced on June 30, shortly after South African President Cyril Ramaphosa revealed his unity government, the first of its kind in the country after 30 years of rule by the ruling African National Congress (archived here).

Schreiber was one of twenty ANC ministers who joined the new cabinet as Minister of the Interior.

Wikipedia Contributors

An analysis of his Wikipedia page by AFP Fact Check found that it had been edited several times shortly after the new coalition was announced.

The website states“Wikipedia articles can be edited by anyone with Internet access, except in limited circumstances where editing is restricted to prevent disruption or vandalism” (archived here).

<span>Screenshot taken from Wikipedia website</span>” data-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTQ0MQ–/”/><span><knop klasse=

Screenshot taken from Wikipedia website

Ramaphosa was scheduled to speak at 09:00 (1900 GMT) but was delayed by about an hour. During this time, Schreiber’s profile was edited to claim he was born in Harare, Zimbabwe.

<span>Screenshot of Schreiber’s Wikipedia page revisions, taken on July 3, 2024</span>” data-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTM2Mg–/″/><span><knop klasse=

Screenshot of Schreiber’s Wikipedia page revisions, taken on July 3, 2024

Anonymous users changed his place of birth several more times, claiming that he was born in Cape Town, South Africa, at one point and in Soweto at another.

Following this revision battle, the birthplace was re-registered as Namaqualand in South Africa’s Northern Cape province on July 1.

This is his birthplace on Wikipedia since the page was created in April 2020 (archived here).

<span>Screenshot of the birthplace, taken from the Wikipedia page version on April 21, 2020</span>” data-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTg4Ng–/″/></p>
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Screenshot of the birthplace, taken from the Wikipedia page version on April 21, 2020

Schreiber’s biography can also be found here And here (archived here And here). These messages were online long before his appointment in 2024 and also mention that he is from Namaqualand.

The Minister of the Interior responded to the rumors in a X-message (archived here).

Despite being one of the world’s best highest unemployment figuresSouth Africa attracts many economic migrants from elsewhere on the continent (archived here).

The influx, combined with poor economic prospects, has led to sporadic outbreaks of anti-immigrant violence in recent years.

According to AFP reportedDuring this year’s campaign, candidates further fanned the flames of online hate and disinformation by playing on xenophobic sentiments and blaming foreigners for the country’s problems (archived here).

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