Being the final resting place for generations of Newcastillians, the Newcastle Cemetery in Hardwick Street has come under the spotlight of late, due to it becoming the target of unsolicited fake news throughout the community.
On Tuesday, 15 December 2020, a torrential downpour descended on Newcastle. One which offered much relief to rivers and dams in the area. But following the rain, a social media post began circulating, stating the rain had obliterated numerous graves in the cemetery.
But, according to Mlungisi Khumalo, the head of Newcastle Municipality, this is not the case at all. In fact, he clarifies, “The municipality would like to confirm that the information circulating on social media is not true. The municipality sent a team from the Parks Unit to investigate the claims.” During the inspection, Khumalo said it was established that only a few new graves need backfilling, however, this he says will be done with the permission of the affected families.
The Newcastillian – Online News visited the cemetery to establish the extent of the damage caused by the rain.
Following the site visit, it was noted that only a small number of graves have indeed been damaged by the torrential downpour as specified by the Newcastle Municipality’s Communications Department. Moreover, one tree has collapsed at the graveyard, which will also be removed in due course.
True to South African spirit and adding a bit of positivity to the matter, a large pool of water at the bottom of the cemetery has offered children in the area the opportunity to escape the summer heat.
While this might seem a trivial matter to address, fake news and accusations are becoming more and more problematic in Newcastle and South Africa—so much so, that earlier this year, the Government announced that anyone who creates or spreads fake news is liable for prosecution. Additionally, in June this year, young South African scientists from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) called on their peers to be more careful and responsible when sharing information to combat the rise of misinformation (fake news), which may be harmful to the society.
During a media briefing in Pretoria, the young researchers shared their research in cybercrime activities and the spread of misinformation during the pandemic.
Nelisiwe Dlamini, one of the researchers, said it is vital to authenticate stories from social media, before pressing the share button. She stressed young people are becoming instigators of the spread of false information, which has the potential to create panic.
When it comes to social media posts, it is essential to follow a series of steps before sharing the post. These steps include the following:
- Read past the headline
- Check the source
- Check for who is reporting on the same news
- Be cautious of questionable photos
Stay safe this festive season and be sure to acquire your information from a reputable media house—such as your favourite online news site, The Newcastillian – Online News.
For information on how to identify false news, read more here: Fake news on the rise, chaos creators beware or face potential legal repercussions
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Authors: Quinton Boucher and Calvin Swemmer
Edited: Calvin Swemmer