Cii News | 01 Safar 1436/24 November 2014

A report that appeared in the Sunday Independent, alleging that the outfit called Islamic State was recruiting in this country, created such a stir. According to the paper, up to 140 recruits have already left SA to join the group in the Middle East, and that three of them – who travelled to Syria – have died while fighting for IS. Iraq’s ambassador to SA, Dr Hushaim al-Alawi, told the paper that the men’s deaths were subsequently covered up as car accidents.

In an interview with Sabahul Khair, Department of State Security spokesman Brian Dube said government was not aware of any South Africans joining this group.

“But we do know, of course, that in terms of our normal work – as it relates to matters of terrorism and related incidences – we are constantly in contact with our partners on the continent and in the world because we realise it’s an international phenomenon. We can’t, ourselves, deal with it individually. That work continues. We are working vigorously to ensure that we can deal with such matters and ensure that our country is safe,” he said this morning.

Having said that, and notwithstanding that there was no official word from the Middle East’s source, notably the ambassador, as yet, the state security spokesman noted that government was pursuing the matter. His account contradicts that of Al-Alawi’s. For instance, while Dube told Cii this morning there hadn’t been an official word from the Middle East on the matter, the Iraqi told Sunday Independent over the weekend that he had, in fact, shared the information with foreign affairs officials. Like the South Africans, the Syrians said they were not aware of the IS recruitments or locals heading for the Middle East to join or fight alongside the group.

Critically, Al-Alawi noted that there were groups within SA recruiting for and raising funds for the IS but under the guise of humanitarian aid. According to the Iraqi, one of the three South Africans who perished in combat in the Middle East last year was recruited by two men in Johannesburg. That late 24-year-old, who reportedly hailed from a wealthy background, had travelled with a group of young men from Azaadville and Lenasia after selling all his belongings, Sunday Independent reported.

“He was recruited by two men in Gauteng. The group used the slogan of supporting refugees and orphans,” he said. The third victim to die in combat this year was a 26-year-old man from Vereeniging, who went to Saudi Arabia on pilgrimage,” Al-Alawi told the paper. “When he got to Saudi Arabia he came in contact with a man who convinced him to travel to Syria to join Isis.” The fact that some people abuse the humanitarian aid card will, however, not alter Pretoria’s angle. After all, this country defeated apartheid bondage, in part, thanks to international solidarity and its foreign policy is rooted in Ubuntu.

“We recognise that we are because other people are. Therefore people who go out to do bona fide work should not be worried in anyway because ourselves, as a country, were liberated through the contribution of many people around the world who took up our cause and fought alongside us to ensure that, today, we have this democratic country. Therefore we have to continue on that (route) working with those that support our cause, share our view so that we can be able to, together, bring some difference in this world,” Dube said, while also tackling the downside.

“But of course, there’s always potential that some people might abuse this. To the extent that this is found and there is proof, thereof, of course, government will take appropriate action.”

He reminded Cii listeners of a law that prohibited South African citizens from fighting on foreign soil, in any manner. The same law prohibited citizens from taking part in the armed forces of foreign states, whether in legal or illegal operations, or offering military assistance to any group.