Overview: South Africa saw a decrease in suspected terrorism-related incidents in 2019, following an unusually high number of incidents in 2018. ISIS facilitation networks and cells remained a threat, after being first publicly acknowledged by the South African government in 2016. Regional dynamics were an increasing concern as terrorist groups made gains in parts of the South African Development Community region, including Mozambique. The government continued to prosecute alleged terrorists charged in previous years and arrested members of an alleged white supremacist terrorist group.
2019 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in 2019.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: There were no changes to South Africa’s legislative framework in 2019. The Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act criminalizes acts of terrorism, as well as the financing of terrorism, and sets out specific obligations related to international cooperation. The Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act of 1998 applies to nationals who attempt to or who have joined terrorist organizations like ISIS. The Crimes Against the State Unit within the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, and South Africa’s State Security Agency are tasked with detecting, deterring, and preventing acts of terrorism within South Africa. The South African Police Service (SAPS) Special Task Force is specifically trained and proficient in CT, counterinsurgency, and hostage rescue. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is committed to prosecuting cases of terrorism and international crime. The Department of Justice submitted a cybercrimes bill to Parliament in 2017, aimed at halting the spread of malicious communications over the internet. Parliament is still reviewing the bill.
Border security is challenging in South Africa because of to its numerous land, sea, and air ports of entry for international travelers. South Africa has multiple law enforcement agencies policing its borders, but they are often stove-piped. Inadequate communication, along with a lack of equipment, limits their border control ability. The Department of Home Affairs submitted the Border Management Authority Bill to Parliament in 2016 to create an integrated and coordinated agency to ensure effective control of the border. Parliament is still reviewing the bill. CT measures at the international airports include screening with advanced technology X-ray machines, but land borders do not have advanced technology and infrastructure. Trafficking networks made use of these land borders for many forms of illicit smuggling. Citizens of neighboring countries are not required to obtain visas for brief visits. Regulation of visa, passport, and identity documents remained a challenge within South Africa. The SAPS internal affairs office investigated allegations of corruption within the Department of Home Affairs concerning the illicit sale of passports and identity documents, but the use of illegitimately obtained identity documents continued.
In 2019, South Africa’s NPA continued to prosecute terrorism crimes. In an effort to decentralize prosecution of terrorism cases, and to provide opportunities for provincially based prosecutors to gain experience in terrorism cases, the NPA’s Gauteng-based Priority Crimes Litigation Unit (PCLU) returned prosecutors seconded to the central unit back to their previous provincial assignments and reassigned terrorism cases to attorneys in the judicial districts where the crimes occurred. Although the PCLU retained an oversight role, it gave provincial prosecutors substantial autonomy to direct terrorism cases as they see fit. Progress in several high-profile cases slowed as newly assigned NPA provincial prosecutors had to become familiar with the cases and develop prosecutions strategies. These included the previously reported prosecutions of the terrorist group allegedly responsible for the 2018 attacks on a Shia mosque and incendiary attacks against commercial interest in Durban, as well as of Sayefudeen Del Vecchio and Fatima Patel, who were charged in 2018 with the killing of British-South African dual nationals Rodney and Rachel Saunders.
In November, South African Police arrested four members of the National Christian Resistance Movement, a white supremacist group allegedly planning attacks targeting shopping malls, informal settlements, and government installations. In December, the four suspects were charged under the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorism and Related Activities Act.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: South Africa is a member of FATF and of ESAAMLG. South Africa’s FIU, the Financial Intelligence Centre, is a member of the Egmont Group. There were no significant updates in 2019.
Countering Violent Extremism: The UN CTED 2018 report notes that the 2013 National CT Strategy in South Africa, which continued to be implemented in 2019, is classified confidential because it is operational in nature. The Strategy is based on five pillars: 1) Understanding and Prediction; 2) Prevent; 3) Mitigation; 4) Combating; and 5) Response – Dealing with the Consequences. It is supported by an Implementation Plan – as well as time frames for implementation, assessment, and reassessment – and is updated annually.
International and Regional Cooperation: South Africa is a member of the AU, GCTF, and the Southern African Development Corporation.