Overview: There were no terrorism-related incidents in South Africa during 2021, possibly owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. This continued a downward trend following an unusually high number of incidents in 2018. ISIS facilitation networks and cells remained a threat, after the South African government first publicly acknowledged them in 2016. Regional dynamics persisted as an increasing concern as terrorist groups made gains in the Southern African Development Community region, including Mozambique. The government charged Johannesburg-based brothers Brandon-Lee and Tony-Lee Thulsie for international terrorism and continues to prosecute alleged terrorists charged in previous years.
2021 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in 2021.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act (POCDATARA) criminalizes acts of terrorism and terrorism financing, and it specifies international cooperation obligations. The Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act of 1998 applies to nationals who attempt to or who join terrorist organizations like ISIS.
The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation’s Crimes Against the State Unit 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) prosecutes terrorism and international crime cases
Prosecutors charged a South African farmer with a terrorism-related offense after he allegedly led other rioters in storming and damaging courthouse property during an October 10 protest related to a hearing for suspects charged with murdering another farmer.
In 2020, South African police arrested individuals in South Africa possessing ISIS propaganda, weapons, and flags. One of the individuals was sentenced to 15 years in prison for kidnapping in 2021, but no terrorism charges were filed. All charges against other individuals arrested with him were dropped.
South African border security is challenging, because of its numerous land, sea, and airports of entry for international travelers. Multiple South African law enforcement agencies police the country’s borders, but many of them are stovepiped. Inadequate communication and equipment limit their border control ability.
Counterterrorism measures at the international airports include screening with advanced technology X-ray machines, but land borders do not have advanced technology or infrastructure. Trafficking networks use these land borders for illicit smuggling, and South Africa does not require neighboring countries’ citizens to obtain visas for brief visits. The SAPS internal affairs office investigated corruption allegations related to illicit sale of passports and other identity documents in the Department of Home Affairs, but use of illegitimately obtained identity documents persisted.
In 2021, South Africa’s NPA continued to prosecute terrorism crimes. To decentralize terrorism case prosecution and provide provincially based prosecutors with relevant experience, the NPA’s Gauteng-based Priority Crimes Litigation Unit (PCLU) returned prosecutors who had been seconded to the central unit to their previous provincial assignments and reassigned terrorism cases to attorneys in judicial districts where the crimes occurred. While the PCLU retained an oversight role, it gave provincial prosecutors substantial autonomy to direct terrorism cases. Progress in several high-profile cases slowed as newly assigned NPA provincial prosecutors familiarized themselves with the cases and developed prosecution strategies. Countering the Financing of Terrorism: South Africa is a member of FATF and of ESAAMLG. South Africa’s Financial Intelligence Centre is a member of the Egmont Group.
Countering Violent Extremism: There are no updates in 2021.
International and Regional Cooperation: South Africa is a member of the AU, the GCTF, and the Southern African Development Community.