South Africa

Overview:  ISIS remained a threat after the South African government first publicly acknowledged its presence in 2016.  Regional dynamics continued to be a source of concern as terrorist groups made gains in the South African Development Community region, including in Mozambique.  The government successfully convicted Johannesburg brothers Brandon-Lee and Tony-Lee Thulsie (the Thulsie twins) for international terrorism and continues to prosecute, albeit inconsistently, alleged terrorists charged in previous years.

2022 Terrorist Incidents:  There were no reported terrorist incidents in 2022.  Embassy Pretoria, however, released a message warning U.S. citizens of a potential terrorist threat in Johannesburg during the weekend of October 29-30. The planners failed to carry out the planned attack.  U.S. Embassy officers held more than a dozen meetings with South African working-level and senior counterparts in advance of the warden’s message publication, including to coordinate the warden’s message text and the substance of the threat.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:  The Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act (Pocdatara) criminalizes acts of terrorism and terrorist 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 counterterrorism (CT), counterinsurgency, and hostage rescue.  The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) prosecutes terrorism and international crime cases.

South Africa’s border security is challenging because of its numerous land, sea, and air ports of entry for international travelers.  Multiple South African law enforcement agencies police its borders, but they often are stove piped.  Inadequate communication and equipment limit their border control ability.  The Department of Home Affairs in 2016 submitted to Parliament the Border Management Authority Bill to create an integrated and coordinated agency to ensure effective control of the border.  President Ramaphosa signed the bill into law in 2020.  CT 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 used these land borders for illicit smuggling, and South Africa does not require neighboring countries’ citizens to obtain visas for brief visits.  SAPS’s internal affairs office investigated corruption allegations related to the illicit sale of passports and other identity documents in the Department of Home Affairs, but illegitimately obtained identity documents continued to be used.  In March a Pakistani national along with a group of 26 men (South Africans and foreign nationals) were arrested in Krugersdorp for issuing fraudulent passports at a Home Affairs branch.

During the year, South Africa’s NPA continued to prosecute a few 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.  Affected cases included the previously reported prosecutions of the terrorist group allegedly responsible for the 2018 deadly attacks on a Shia mosque and firebomb attacks against commercial Durban interests, and the prosecutions of Sayfudeen Del Vecchio and Fatima Patel, charged in 2018 with murdering British-South African dual nationals Rodney and Rachel Saunders.  The Del Vecchio/Patel trial finally got under way in October in Durban.

In 2019, South African Police arrested four members of the National Christian Resistance Movement, a white supremacist group that allegedly planned attacks on shopping malls, informal settlements, and government installations.  In 2019 the four suspects were charged under Pocdatara.  Two members were found guilty and sentenced in 2020 for an effective eight years’ imprisonment for preparing and planning to carry out acts of terrorism.  Charges against another individual were dropped.  Harry Knoesen, the alleged leader of the group and self-proclaimed pastor, was found guilty in June and given two life sentences plus 21 years’ imprisonment on September 28.

On February 7, Thulsie twins Brandon-Lee and Tony-Lee Thulsie were sentenced to eight and 11 years in prison, respectively, for attempting to leave South Africa to join ISIS in Syria in 2015 and conspiring to conduct terror attacks against foreign embassies and local Jewish and Shia interests in South Africa.  The convictions were South Africa’s first for international terrorism under Pocdatara.  Previous convictions under the act have been against local violent extremists.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism:  South Africa is a member of FATF and the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group.  Its FIU, the Financial Intelligence Center, is a member of the Egmont Group.  There were no significant changes in 2022.

Countering Violent Extremism:  There were no updates in 2022.

International and Regional Cooperation:  South Africa is a member of the African Union, the Global Counterterrorism Forum, and the Southern African Development Corporation Community.

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