The person in a photo being used to mourn Vusi Zuma is alive and well… and apparently confused that his face is now all over the internet.
When I first set out to write this piece, I intended it as a slightly more tongue-in-cheek take on the fact that so many people have been using the wrong photo when writing about Jacob Zuma’s late son Nhlakanipho Vusi Zuma.
There’s nothing funny about the actual passing of the young man, of course, but it’s still quite strange to consider all the confusion around this photo.
Basically, it all comes down to the fact that there’s a Twitter account presenting itself as that of “Nhlakanipho V Zuma”, and it’s quite convincing, with tweets about Jacob Zuma and even wishing Zuma happy Father’s Day in 2015, along with a few other tweets that feature photos of “Dad”.
Happy fathers day to my father His Excellency Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma same to you and yours.
— Nhlakanipho V Zuma (@VusiZumaN) June 21, 2015
Three explanations for this spring to mind to me. I’m sure there must be more, but I’m not paid to think about this sort of thing for too long.
1. Maybe Vusi Zuma really did start this account but decided to use the face of someone else in an effort to remain anonymous in the eyes of the media and South African society at large. When you consider that Vusi managed to stay out of the limelight for all the years leading up to and during his father’s reign, it’s quite possible he did do this. He wanted to be on Twitter, but not too exposed. So he “borrowed” someone else’s face. I don’t really believe this, though, but it is possible.
2. The most likely explanation was that it was just started by some anonymous fool with too much time on his hands who wanted to get up to mischief of some sort by pretending to be a Zuma child. However, nothing mischievous was ever tweeted from the account. Either way, if this happened, we’ll never know unless he tweets something again.
3. Part of me would love to imagine that the guy in the picture actually started the account and simply pretended to be Vusi Zuma for a while. Why? I don’t know. Maybe he did it to impress a girl … or in the misbegotten hope it might help to land a business deal. I’d love to imagine the scene when his girlfriend perhaps opens her news app to break into tears at the news that her beloved has been reported dead … only for him to walk in the door five minutes later. This scenario, though, becomes less credible once you found out who the real guy in the photo is.
It turns out that many have said on social media that they personally know the man, and his name is Lerato Mphafi. He appears to have briefly joined Twitter in 2014 and written one tweet.
Here it is:
@IronmanMann hey bro
— lerato mphafi (@lerato_mphafi) July 2, 2014
Since the news broke of Vusi Zuma’s death on Sunday night, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the real Vusi Zuma may in fact have looked like this:
RIP Vusi Zuma! pic.twitter.com/wtYG80GZOk
— Sibusisomabuza (@sibzmabuza) July 3, 2018
After originally tweeting about his death using the wrong photo, even Thuli Madonsela later tweeted her condolences again, this time using what we now presume to be the correct photo.
The @ThumaFoundation and I have noted with shock and sympathy news of the untimely passing of Vusi Nhlakanipho Zuma, son of former President Jacob Zuma Heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and colleagues. May his soul #RIP pic.twitter.com/o4QIlhwwmg
— Prof Thuli Madonsela (@ThuliMadonsela3) July 3, 2018
Curiously, many of the people on Twitter who claim to know Lerato Mphafi say he’s amazed to see all these photos of himself being mourned all over the internet, both in South Africa and abroad.
This is not true Lerato Mphafi is not Nhlakanipho Zuma he's my former Collegue i spoke to him about this he doesnt even know why are u ppl using his pics and lying about him being Nhlakanipho and death.
— Ntombiziningi (@Ntombiziningi3) July 3, 2018
Lies lies lies this guy on the pic is Lerato Mphafi not Zumas son nithi sinithembe kanjani when u post lies like this mxm pic.twitter.com/6PNAjhHn9W
— The Queen big5😙😙 (@BONGIEM02) July 3, 2018
Lerato Mphafi has quite an active Facebook account and he’s clearly the guy everyone is confusing with Vusi Zuma.