This weeping woman is not South African. Photo: TheWashingtonPost

In the frenetic, desperate sharing of any post people can find to make sense of the devastation of the past few days, there are many which are wonderful, heartwarming and inspiring… but also a few which are not quite true. Two of the most popular posts in fact, are not genuine.

The first is a massively popular message that it is claimed was written by Clem Sunter, South Africa’s renowned scenario planner, futurologist and keynote speaker.

The post clearly resonates with tens of thousands of South Africans, but Clem Sunter has confirmed to SAPeople and Biz News that this was not written by him.

The fake post begins: “Dear friends, Many of you outside of South Africa are wondering what is really going on. So here is a very simple outline. The thing is obviously far more complex and nuanced than can be set out in a brief note but this will give you some picture of what is really happening.” The post discusses a “game plan” and some versions even list intel supposedly gathered from looters.

Who ever really authored it probably had good intentions, and perhaps thought that attributing it to Sunter would give their opinions more gravitas. But just like those popular posts with wise words from Meryl Streep, Keanu Reeves and the late comedian Robin Williams… they’re just social media myths… and a subtle form of propaganda.

There is also a devastatingly sad photo of a weeping woman, claimed to be South African, which locals say epitomises the depth of sadness and loss of livelihood felt by thousands this week.

One Capetonian said it was “the most incredible and powerful image” he’d seen “taken in the last couple of days” and how – like for so many others – it “really speaks to me”. He attributed it to “Photographer Unknown”.

But the photographer is known, and the photo is actually a Pulitzer Prize winning photo (in the ‘breaking news’ category) from 11 years ago! It’s called Haiti Weeps, and was taken by Carol Guzy from the Washington Post after the catastrophic earthquake in January 2010.

As far as the non-Clem Sunter post goes, it’s perhaps these sentences that are making South Africans so hopeful that this was written by Sunter:

“South Africans are a strange nation in many ways. They argue and fight amongst themselves but when pushed to the edge, they always pull together for the common good. This has happened again and again over the decades.

“This has been perhaps a necessary test of our democracy and of the rule of law. Make no mistake but that South Africa has many very real challenges. But South Africa will pass through this and will put the locust years behind it.”

And the thing is that these words are true. Just they’re not Clem Sunter’s words!

If you’d like to know Clem Sunter’s real thoughts on the current situation, listen to his interview with Biz News’ Alec Hoggs or read the summary on BizNews here. You can also visit Clem Sunter’s website here. He has a new book worth reading – ‘Thinking the Future’.