Hoax photo of Mandela after death brings anger

The South African government said Thursday it would not release photographs of former President Nelson Mandela lying in state, and urged people to shun a hoax image purporting to be of the dead president that was posted on the Internet.

While tens of thousands filed past the democracy icon’s open coffin in Pretoria, social media were buzzing with condemnation of an apparent sneaked photo of the president’s face that had been posted online.

The photo was later exposed as a hoax, a doctored image of an AFP photograph that was taken of Mandela in July 1991 when he was closing his eyes at an African National Congress party meeting in Durban.

The government confirmed that the image posted on social media was not what it claimed to be: “Government finds it extremely distasteful that a member of the public would engage in such behavior and manipulate a photograph of President Mandela at this time,” an official statement said Thursday.

The government welcomed social media users’ widespread condemnation of the purported image. “If this content exists, government calls on people not to view it and to delete it from their timelines.”

Mandela’s family had expressly wished that no photographs of the body be released, and people lining up to view the open-top casket were not allowed to bring cameras and were requested to turn off their mobile phones.

“With regard to mourners filing past the casket, government repeats the caution that no photography is allowed,” Thursday’s statement said.