South Africa and the war against terrorism
142. In November 2001, this Committee launched a
rolling inquiry into 'The Foreign Policy Aspects of the War against
that time we have taken a large amount of evidence on the subject
and produced four substantial Reports to the House. These have
covered a wide range of issues including the aftermath of the
September 11 attacks in the USA, the work of Al-Qaeda and the
recent war in Iraq.
During this inquiry, we have been struck repeatedly by the all-embracing
and global scale of this conflict against terror. Although South
Africa does not appear to be on the 'front-line' of the war against
terrorism, given the international scale of the struggle, we felt
it to important to examine this element of UK-South African relations
in our Report.
143. In its memorandum, the Foreign Office stated
that South Africa had responded swiftly to the September 11 attacks
in the USA, condemning terrorism without equivocation, and offering
to the USA both humanitarian support and the full co-operation
of its security agencies.
In a follow-up statement, the South Africans cautioned that the
USA's reaction to terrorism should be coupled with a longer term
response of isolating terrorists through international co-operation,
"to eradicate poverty and underdevelopment".
The FCO also noted that South Africa had taken a number of concrete
steps in the war against terrorism: joining the Financial Action
Task Force (FATF) and the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money
Laundering Group (ESAAMLG), for example. It is working closely
with the United Kingdom to tackle money-laundering activities
that can help fund terrorism. It has also presented three comprehensive
annual reports to the UN's Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC).
144. Mr Charles Nqakula, Minister of Safety and Security,
whom we met while visiting South Africa, informed us that the
country enjoyed good co-operation on terrorist-related issues
with both the United Kingdom and the USA. He was very conscious
of the need to ensure that South Africa did not become a 'safe
haven' for terrorists evading justice. The Minister noted, however,
that, at that time, domestic terrorism, particularly from those
groups based on 'gangsterism' and drugs, was a more pressing concern
for the Government. In its memorandum, the Foreign Office provided
some information on this issue:
The South African Government's intentions and actions
on countering terrorism are laudable. The Counter Terrorism Bill
is working its way through Parliament ... The work of South African
agencies involved in countering terrorism is not always fully
co-ordinated, but is improving. The South African Police Service
is confident that it is on top of recent domestic terrorist threats
from domestic groups, including People Against Gangsterism and
Drugs (PAGAD) and the Boermag (a white far-right organisation).
Dr Jakkie Cilliers commented in a similarly positive
manner on the Government's response to this domestic threat.
145. Other evidence we have seen stressed the danger
of ignoring the terrorist threat in Africa. In a recent article
on this subject, Jeffrey Herbst and Greg Mills highlighted the
fact that the largest terrorist atrocities prior to 11 September
2001 took place on the continentthe bombing of the US embassies
in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 people and injuring 574.
They also referred to the US's National Security Strategy of September
2002, which stated that 9/11 had:
taught the United States that weak states ... can
pose as great a danger to our national interests as strong states.
Poverty does not make poor people into terrorists and murderers.
Yet poverty, weak institutions, and corruption can make weak states
vulnerable to terrorist networks and drug cartels within their
During his 2003 visit to Africa, President Bush stated
that he would "not allow terrorists to threaten the African
peoples or to use Africa as a base to threaten the world."
146. There have been attempts to improve and co-ordinate
the African response to terrorism, most notably through the AU.
However, many states in the continent lack the resources and expertise
to cope with the demands the international war against terrorism
places upon them. In his evidence to us, for example, Dr Mills
Most African police forces are extremely weak and
cannot combat day-to-day crime, much less be the front-line forces
in combating instability. Intelligence collection is also very
poor in most African countries.
147. In the light of the difficulties faced by many
African states in meeting their commitments, Dr Cilliers suggested
South Africa's contribution to the global war against
terrorism lies primarily in passing on this experience in intelligence-driven
policing operations to their counterparts in Tanzania, Kenya and
We agree. As in so many areas, South Africa, with
its well-established police and intelligence structures, can act
as a good example of best practice, which can be disseminated
across the continent.
148. However, the United Kingdom, and the wider global
community, needs to recall at all times that the fight against
terrorism, vital as it is, should not lead us to neglect our broader
commitments to nations not directly affected by the conflict.
As Dr Steve Kibble observed in his oral evidence:
Africa's problems have very little to do with terrorism,
except possibly as a kind of marginalisation, because so much
effort of the world is concentrated on those areas where there
is terrorism, or thought to be the potential for terrorism. Africa
suffers, but indirectly and not by engagement.
149. We conclude that South Africa has an important
role in the war against terrorism, especially by helping to prevent
international terrorists using the continent as a base for their
activities elsewhere in the world. South Africa has a particularly
crucial role to play, as an influential African nation in disseminating
best practice in anti-terrorism activity across the continent.
We recommend that the United Kingdom continue to offer substantial
assistance to ensure that South Africa can both combat international
terrorism within its own borders and act as a catalyst for improving
Africa's ability to respond to the threat.
195 "Launch of new inquiry: Foreign Policy Aspects
of the War Against Terrorism", press release No. 7 (Session
2001-02), 13 November 2001 Back
Foreign Affairs Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2001-02,
Foreign Policy Aspects of the War against Terrorism, HC
384; Second Report of Session 2002-03, Foreign Policy Aspects
of the War against Terrorism, HC 196; Tenth Report of Session
2002-03, Foreign Policy Aspects of the War against Terrorism,
HC 405; and Second Report of Session 2003-04, Foreign Policy
Aspects of the War against Terrorism, HC 81 Back
Ev 71, para 41 ff. Back
The UN CTC was established in September 2001 by Security Council
Resolution 1373, to strengthen the capability of states to combat
terrorism. For further information, see: www.un.org/Docs/sc/committees/1373/index.html. Back
Ev 71, para 43. People Against Gangsterism and Drugs, a Western
Cape Muslim-based group, was formed by local people in response
to gang violence on the Cape Flats. However, it turned into its
own terror group, almost indistinguishable from the other gangs.
The Boermag is an extreme right-wing, white supremacist group. Back
Ev 109 Back
Jeffrey Herbst and Greg Mills, "Africa and the War on Terror",
South African Journal of International Affairs, vol 10
(Winter/Spring 2002), p 29 ff Back
Ibid., p 29 Back
Ibid., p 34 Back
Ibid., p 34 Back
Ev 111 Back
Q 111 Back