South Africa
Mbeki: "No terror links with South Africa"

War on terrorism
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South African Government / IPS, 25 October - South Africa's security services have investigated information provided by the United Sates and the United Kingdom but have not found evidence linking South Africans to the attacks on New York and Washington, says the country's President, Thabo Mbeki.

Speaking in Parliament this week, Mbeki added that he did not think South Africa faced any direct threat emanating from the attacks on the United States.

However, South Africa has received as many as 80 anthrax scares in recent days, all of which have turned out to be hoaxes, but which cause "big problems for the country," says Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Aziz Pahad. He was speaking at a parliamentary briefing on Thursday.

Under the former apartheid regime South Africa had had one of the world's most advanced bio-chemical weapons programmes which, Pahad says, the government was trying to make doubly sure it has destroyed all capacity to produce them, in the country.

Pahad says that in line with requests from the United States, South Africa is watching its borders to monitor the movement of suspected terrorists - and its banking system to monitor the movement of their money. 

The country also has checked lists of suspected terrorists being circulated among the international intelligence community, and has not found any of the named people in South Africa.

The country is also moving to bring its legislation into line with the UN Security Council resolution on combating terrorism.

Pointing out that the government has to report its progress in implementing the Security Council resolution within 90 days from its adoption, Pahad says the South Africa's State Law Adviser and justice department are looking at the impact of the international declaration on the country's legislation.

Among others, government is attempting to fast-track anti-terrorism legislation that has been stalled - mainly because of concerns that it undermines human rights in the country. 

Legislation to create a Financial Intelligence Centre - aimed at tackling money laundering in the South African banking system - is also before Parliament, at present.

Two predominantly Muslim fundamentalist South African organisations, Qibla and Pagad, also have been marked as terrorist organisations by the United States - and may need to be looked at in terms of the UN Security Council resolution.

However, Pagad feels the United States may be giving the groups "too much credit."

Members of Pagad have been implicated in an urban terror campaign in the South African coastal city of Cape Town. The city was subjected to a spate of bomb-blasts, although no demands were ever issued by the perpetrators.

Qibla is Muslim fundamentalist group that started out as an anti-apartheid movement.

The government has also had to repeatedly warn some groups in the country against trying to recruit people to go and fight in Afghanistan on the side of the ruling Taliban. This is already illegal in terms of existing South African legislation.

In the meantime, marchers from South Africa's Muslim community and a small opposition party, the Pan African Congress (PAC) took to the streets of Pretoria to protest the U.S. attacks on Afghanistan, on Wednesday. 

In a memorandum handed to the South African government, they criticised the government's support of the United States.

Speaking on the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) the secretary-general of the PAC, Thami ka Plaatjie, says: "This is a government that was called terrorists. The African National Congress was called a terrorist organisation. Now, today, they're using the same terms, the same phrases they've borrowed from their masters."

The Muslim community is challenging government to provide it with more information regarding the attacks on the United States. "They claim they have seen the information - claiming that Osama bin Laden is guilty. We demand the government to show it to the people of the country," says a marcher.

Pahad says the government is planning an "outreach" programme to South Africa's Jewish and Muslim leaders. The aim is to get them to take the lead in dealing with differences between their communities about the attacks on Afghanistan and the conflict in Middle East - so there is no "religious fight in South Africa."

In Parliament, Mbeki repeated South Africa's commitment to co-operate with the international community within the framework of the United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

However, the South African government has repeatedly said that the world must tackle the root causes of terrorism if it is to ever effectively tackle it. These include poverty, under-development and the continuing conflict in the Middle East.

By Anthony Stoppard, IPS 



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