SA POLICE WOEFULLY UNDER-RESOURCED IN FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM
THE South African Police Service organization tasked with investigating terrorism, treason and crimes aimed at undermining the state and the constitution has only three policemen to cover the whole of KwaZulu Natal province.
KwaZulu Natal borders on Mozambique – where a bloody and violent insurgency has broken out in the Northern Province of Cabo Delgado – led by shadowy Jihadists who have reportedly sworn allegiance to Al Shabab, but whose real identity appears unclear. The insurgency is attracting Jihadists from all over Africa, and in particular from Al Shabab.
The US based International Crisis Group reported in August this year that:
“Despite losing territory in Somalia and cutting back recruitment in Kenya under pressure from authorities, Al-Shabaab has adapted by finding new areas of operation, including by building relationships with militants in southern Tanzania and northern Mozambique.”
A South African risk advisory expert who lives in Mozambique said that while the insurgency was receiving very little attention in the media attacks had become increasingly violent.
“On 20 September the village of Paqueue was attacked by a group of armed men who shot dead ten villagers and burned two at the stake. One of the men shot dead was beheaded after his death and his head put on display. The police and army have conducted a number of operations up here to look for the suspects – but there is virtually no media attention given to the situation because the area is so very isolated and remote. ”
The source said that he had very little doubt that the jihadists may soon pose a threat to South Afirca. “For many years it has been reported that Jihadists operate training camps in KwaZulu Natal. The sources for that information are the state themselves in docments that have been leaked from government sources…. The border between South Africa and Mozambique is porous and consists of only one or two strands of barbed wire.”
Mozambican police told The Spike that in late August police investigations had made a breakthrough – which allowed authorities to identify six of the ringleaders behind the insurgency.
In an email to The Spike Mozambican police said that their “Bernardino Rafael, chief of police of Mozambique is seeking any information the whereabouts of the following five men who are believed to be leading the terrorist attacks in Cabo Delgado province. The men are Abdul Faizal, Abdul Remane, Abdul Raim, Nuno Remane and Ibn Omar. A sixth suspect who has only been identified as Salimo is also being sought.”
“We ask anyone that has any possible information that could lead to the capture of these names we’ve indicated to contact the Police of the Republic of Mozambique.”
News of the dramatic under-resourcing of the Crimes against The State 0r CATS comes as a probe of firebomb attacks against the Woolworths supermarket chain appears to be going nowhere – while a South African woman and her Italian born husband, who lived in Mozambique for many years, are standing trial for the kidnapping and murder of a British couple in KwaZulu Natal earlier this year.
Sources in the SAPS confirmed that the Crimes Against the State unit has only three members – none of whom are officers. The lack of any officers in the unit is significant, because only a commissioned officer can sign a search warrant. To obtain a search warrant after hours the unit have to either wake up a prosecutor or else find a commissioned officer who can be trusted enough to sign off on a search warrant that may well be immensely politically sensitive.
With no officers to command the unit the three members have to report once a week to the provincial head of the Organised Crime Unit to update him on their activities.
The unit are not only tasked with investigating the kidnap and murder of Rachel and Rodney Saunders who were collecting rare plant specimens when they were kidnapped – allegedly by Fatima Patel and her husband Safydeen Del Vecchio – an Italian born convert to Islam who lived in Mozambique for many years.
The pair are standing trial for kidnapping the Saunders couple then murdering the couple after emptying their bank accounts and credit cards. Investigations by Dutch authorities have positively linked them to a known Netherlands based Islamic militant who has been identified in the Dutch media only as Mohamed G. Mohamed G is alleged to have purchased Bitcoins using the bank accounts of the Saunders couple – after Del Vecchio or Patel allegedly provided him with these.
During the arrest of the pair, police discovered various incendiary devices and plans for the construction of these that had been downloaded from the internet. The pair had been living in a home rented from the Tongaat Hullet sugar group.
In February this year the British government issued a travel warning for South Africa, which read in part:
“Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in South Africa. Attacks could be indiscriminate‚ including in places visited by foreigners such as shopping areas in major cities. The main threat is from extremists linked to Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL). In February 2018‚ two South African-British nationals were kidnapped.”
And while the Del Vecchio couple are standing trial there have been no arrests for a spate of firebomb attacks at Woolworths stores around the country, despite the attackers being caught on CCTV camera there have been no arrests in connection with the attacks. While the motive for the attacks is not clear the fact that the firebomb attacks are the subject of a Crimes Against the State investigation is a clear sign that the motive may well be terrorism, and not simple extortion.
On 15 June, Thembamandla Xulu, who was arrested along with Del Vecchio and Patel for the Saunders killings, was convicted and given a suspended sentence for possessing property stolen from the murdered Saunders couple.
Xulu was released from custory on 18 June – and has reportedly vanished from his home town on the KwaZulu Natal North Coast.
Less than two weeks after Xulu’s release from prison the Woolworths stores in Gateway shopping mall and the Pavilion were attacked with incendiary devices which caused minimal damage to both stores.
Sources in the police Crime Intelligence Service said that it was suspected that the firebombs that were found on Del Vecchio’s property and the devices used against Woolworths were identical. It was believed that the devices were being manufactured in the KwaZulu Natal midlands and distributed around the country.
Professor Hussein Solomon, an expert in Islamic extremism and author of several books on the subject, told The Spike that he thought it was “very worrying” that police had under-resourced such a vital investigations unit, especially in a province where Islamic extremists are long believed to have been running training camps for terrorists.