JOHANNESBURG (The Blaze/AP) -- A South African man is under fire after an image posted on Facebook surfaced showing him with a hunting rifle and a big grin kneeling in a classic hunter's pose over his "prey" - what appears to be the lifeless body of a black boy. The picture launched a policed investigation and apparently the man admitted it was all a prank -- in 2007.
The picture was first published on the front page of South Africa's Sunday Times along with a police plea for the man in the picture or anyone who recognizes him to help their investigation. Further digging led police to a similar investigation in 2007, in which the picture was probed and the man fessed up to it being a hoax. The Times reports:
Hawks spokesman Colonel McIntosh Polela said yesterday that Western Cape police contacted him yesterday morning after reading a Sunday Times report which stated that the photograph featured on the profile of a Facebook user who called himself "Eugene Terrorblanche".
"I was told that the photograph came to light in 2007 and that it was investigated. The man was taken in for questioning.
"He told police that the child was alive and that he paid the child to pose."
"I got the impression that the man told the police that the child was alive. I don't know how far the police went to find out if the child was indeed alive. I will have to read the report," he said.
Still, it's not completely clear if the picture is authentic, or whether it has been digitally manipulated. Also unknown is the fate of the child.
The Sunday Times quotes officials saying anyone party to the production and posting of the photograph could be charged under several laws including the Children's Act, the Films and Publications Act and the Criminal Procedure Act.
"If this is the same picture that was reported on earlier as being doctored, it is comforting to know that the child was not physically harmed," Ray Hartley, editor of the Sunday Times, told the Times (they're sister publications). "The fact remains that a very sick individual has this picture posted on his Facebook profile in 2011 along with a string of extremely racist remarks."
The photo has also led to racial concerns. The man in the photo has been dubbed the "Facebook racist" and the national director of public prosecutions, Menzi Simelane, tweeted: "Race crime legislation is needed in SA."
"Whether or not the picture is genuine, it represents a scene of extreme violence perpetrated against a child by a man," DA leader Helen Zille told the Times. "The intention is to evoke racial hatred and polarization."