Cii News | 11 June 2013
Contrary to recent claims by academics and journalists that South Africa was becoming a terrorist haven, the country has not been identified as having any major terrorist threats, according to a new US Department of State report.
The “Country Reports on Terrorism 2012” report details how US-designated terrorists are taking advantage of post-revolutionary turmoil across North Africa and warns of insecurity in the Sahel and West Africa, where 175 so-called terrorist attacks and 15 cases of kidnapping were confirmed by the end of 2012.
The US government report did not however record any terror activity in South Africa.
The lone case of terrorism prosecution in the country cited in the report was that of Henry Okah, the leader for the Movement for Defense of the Niger Delta. Okah, a South African citizen since 2003, stood trial last year in the Gauteng South High Court for his role in the twin bombings during the October 2010 Independence Day Anniversary celebrations in Abuja, Nigeria, that killed and wounded scores of people. On January 21, 2013 Okah was found guilty on 13 counts of terrorism, and on March 26, was sentenced to 24 years in prison. This case is one of the first to be prosecuted in South Africa under the 2004 Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorism and Related Activities Act.
The report notes that in 2012 the South African Revenue Service (SARS) built on its strong relationship with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Container Security Initiative team in Durban. SARS worked with CBP to build capacity to meet the World Customs Organization Framework of Standards. South Africa also continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program by attending courses on Maritime Interdiction, Explosive Ordinance and Forensics, Land Border Interdiction, Management of Special Events, Document Fraud, and Crime Scene Management. In addition, South African officials also participated directly with the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Gaborone, Botswana.
The State Department nonetheless lamented a lack of engagement between the South African State Security Agency (SSA) and U.S. counterterrorism interlocutors. It also bemoaned poor South African participation at sessions of the ILEA.
Last month, controversial University of the Free State academic Hussein Solomon, alleged South Africa was becoming a terrorist haven and that British and American intelligence agencies were becoming increasingly frustrated with the inaction on the part of the South African government to effectively respond to the terror threat emanating from within its borders.
“These twin issues of a dearth of political will and incapacity will need to be fixed as a matter of urgency if we are to ensure the security of all South African citizens and for South Africa to play its part in eradicating the scourge of international terrorism,” Solomon wrote on the Israeli run RIMA blog.
His allegation came in the wake of a supposed year-long investigation by the Daily Maverick’s De Wet Potgieter that claimed to reveal incriminating evidence about secret military training camps and sophisticated sniper training at three well-documented locations as well as several others across South Africa. Potgieter suggested subversive activities had taken place at a farm near the notorious Apartheid police hit squad camp at Vlakplaas outside Pretoria, as well as a secluded farm in the mountains of the Klein Karoo.
Personalities fingered in the ‘expose’ slammed the piece as being self evidently mischievous. “On its own it smacks of inherently improbable and farfetched assertions,” businessman Farhad Ahmed Dockrat retorted in a lengthy public response. “It is aimed at neutralising the South African government from taking steps in preventing racial segregation in this country.It is aimed at unjustifiably embarrassing the South African government as being an incompetent state. It is aimed at garnering US support to further a racist objective. It is truly a masterpiece in deception.”