The social media page of New Conservative candidate Rudi du Plooy erupted last night with claims his sign had been vandalised before social media users pointed out it was an obvious Photoshop. So what really happened? Alex Braae gave him a call.
When Rudi du Plooy was sent a photo of his Hamilton West election hoarding spray-painted with the words “Bokke Bo” all across it, he was absolutely certain about what it meant.
In an all-caps Facebook post, he wrote: “VANDALS ARE DETERMINED TO KILL FREEDOM OF SPEECH IN NEW ZEALAND – NC IS COMMITTED TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS TO FREEDOM OF SPEECH”. There was no doubt in his mind that his hoardings had been targeted deliberately as an attack on his campaign.
But eagle-eyed social media users quickly spotted something about the picture du Plooy hadn’t seen. There was a cursor in the top left corner of the sign, indicating it had been made with a photo editing programme like MS Paint or Photoshop.
So what was going on? Who made this fake? And what were their motivations?
Speaking to The Spinoff this morning, du Plooy said he didn’t know if the person who sent him the image of the poorly photoshopped sign was the one who made it. But he did have a bombshell allegation to make against the unnamed person – they were a candidate for a rival party.
“Somebody sent me this photograph, and I kind of trust this guy. And I really thought the sign had been vandalised.
“What makes it worse is that he’s a candidate for another party. I don’t want to stir, but it’s one of the minor parties – up north somewhere. But he’s also South African. So of course, us mad South Africans, we prank and do stupid things like that,” he said.
“I don’t really want to drag him into it, I just want to let it go away. I think at this time, he’s probably feeling pretty sheepish. I would assume – just guessing – that his party would frown on it.”
Du Plooy later got back in touch with The Spinoff and named the person who had sent the image as Marius Koekemoer, the East Coast Bays candidate for The Outdoors Party. He also provided a screenshot demonstrating where the original image came from.
There was a bit of a sceptical reaction from social media users about the truth of the story when the original post was made. Had du Plooy really not realised it was a rather amateur photoshop job?
“I didn’t spot it,” said du Plooy, speaking about the cursor. “But then later on in the day one of our guys, whose a computer tech guy, came back and said ‘nah it’s been photoshopped, there’s a cursor’ and I said ‘oh my goodness, there is a cursor!””
Needing to verify it for himself, he jumped into the car and drove down to the site. Finding it clean and unblemished, he put up a somewhat sheepish post. “The ‘VANDALISED’ photo was photoshopped and the black ‘spray-painted’ items are all FAKE,” he wrote. “The good news is that the sign is in good health.”
Du Plooy was relieved that he wouldn’t have to replace the expensive sign and said that he hadn’t really expected such vandalism from his fellow Hamiltonians. “I thought to myself, people in Hamilton don’t do things like that. Yeah, sometimes they’ll draw little moustaches and stuff, [but] I can live with that, that’s alright.”
In the end, he thought the incident highlighted the importance of free speech for candidates running for parliament, which he said was a topic he was passionate about.
“I think to deface anyone’s signs or vandalism is a very serious matter. I’d be really frustrated and annoyed,” he said if it turned out that people were to take the inspiration from the virtual prank and do it in reality.
“Generally speaking, I think everybody in politics … we just don’t touch each other’s signs. We don’t take them off, we don’t move them … I think that’s part of the discipline of being a politician.” Du Plooy also said that if he saw another candidate’s sign had been knocked over, he would put it back up
But what was the significance of the message in the first place? “Bokke Bo”, explained du Plooy, means “that the Springboks [rugby team] are on top.” He said that suggested to him that only someone of South African descent would have pulled the prank on him.
Du Plooy is prominent in the South African immigrant community and has previously been in the news after attempting to revive the Afrikaans “Day of the Vow” holiday in New Zealand, which some see as racist because of its attachment to the Apartheid regime.
Du Plooy also confirmed that as a citizen of New Zealand, he now only supports the All Blacks.
This story was updated at 3.45 pm to identify the sender of the image as Marius Koekemoer from the Outdoors Party.