Posts falsely claim South African president snubbed Nigerian leader at inauguration

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu was in South Africa in June 2024 for the second full-term swearing-in ceremony of Cyril Ramaphosa. Social media posts sharing videos from the event claimed Ramaphosa ignored Tinubu as he was greeting other dignitaries — a mark, they argued, of Nigeria’s waning reputation. But the claim is false: longer footage shows the South African leader returned to greet Tinubu and other guests after pausing moments earlier for the country’s national anthem. The pair also spoke later in Tinubu's hotel room.

“Nigeria seems to have lost all manner of respect of the international community with the sham elections of 2023 and the indecent character that has been put at their helm. See as the South African president tacitly avoided his Nigerian counterpart while thanking other African presidents for making out time to honour his invitation. This is sad and very discouraging,” reads an X post published on June 19, 2024.

<span>Screenshot showing the false X post, taken June 20, 2024</span>
Screenshot showing the false X post, taken June 20, 2024

Reshared more than 1,200 times, the post features a 60-second clip showing Ramaphosa and his wife, Tshepo Motsepe, on a TV screen greeting African dignitaries seated in the front row at the presidential inauguration in Pretoria. Tinubu and other African leaders occupied the second row.

Twenty-two seconds into the video, a voice starts speaking in Igbo  — a language predominantly spoken in Nigerian’s south-eastern zone where Tinubu’s leadership is unpopular (archived here).

The region has been a hotbed of unrest since 1967 when the separatist group Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) began fighting for independence, a struggle that continues to this day (archived here).

“See where they kept Tinubu,” the narrator says. “Just look at the Nigerian president standing at the back. He is smiling for them to greet him but they did not, nobody said anything to him.”

Several X accounts posted the video with same claim (see here, here, and here). Nigerian activist Aisha Yesufu also posted a video titled “Tinubu disgraced once again in South Africa” on YouTube with her added commentary.

Tinubu left Nigeria on June 18, 2024, to attend the inauguration of Ramaphosa after the 71-year-old stitched together a government coalition with bitter rivals to secure another term (archived here).

Coalition members voted overwhelmingly to re-elect Ramaphosa after the May 29 general election failed to produce an outright winner for the first time in three decades (archived here).

On June 19, the South African government posted a video on X showing Tinubu’s arrival (archived here).

But the claim that Ramaphosa snubbed Tinubu is false.

Incomplete video

Several local and international broadcasters aired the swearing-in ceremony.

An online search led to the hours-long feed supplied by the state-funded South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

At exactly 3’15”14’’’, Ramaphosa starts greeting guests but pauses less than a minute later to hear the national anthem.  It is at this point that the clip in the false posts is cut.

Three minutes later, Ramaphosa turns to other guests and is seen shaking hands with Tinubu — the moment is visible at  3’20”16’’’ in the video.

The South African government published a video on X the next day showing Ramaphosa and Tinubu talking together in a room (archived here).

The caption says the two presidents were holding a bilateral meeting.

At the same time, another X video was published by the government-funded broadcaster Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) showing Ramaphosa being led into Tinubu’s hotel room by Nigeria’s national security adviser Nuhu Ribadu (archived here).

A Tinubu aide also shared the same footage on X, including the moment Ramaphosa tells Tinubu how “honoured and privileged” he was to have him at his inauguration (archived here).

“It lifted my spirits and that of South Africans as a whole that the president of Africa’s biggest nation will attend our inauguration. I have come to pay my deepest respects to him and also discuss matters that unite both of our countries,” Ramaphosa told journalists.