Is South Africa an ally of the US led “War on Terror”?
by Iqbal Jassat
(Friday, June 16, 2006)
“Seeking to shoot the messenger was part of the armory used effectively by the despicable apartheid regime in the past. Curtailment of free speech and draconian legislation to criminalize legal probes was rudimentary then. Banishment and detention was the order of the day.”
What a horrible thought! An ally of American imperialism?
Imagine the notion of South Africa’s senior government leaders in secret liaison with some of the most unsavory characters in the Bush administration!
Impossible? Well, well………?
Doubts raised about the subversion of principled positions which inform this country’s domestic and foreign policies are on the increase since the bungling by the ministry of home affairs vis-à-vis the Khalid Rashid issue, began dominating media coverage.
And if anyone is to blame for these nagging questions, it can only be the team of spokesmen deployed by the ministry. Not only have they been unconvincing; they have displayed a remarkable propensity to mislead, confuse and divert attention away from their failures.
Clumsy and awkward efforts to obfuscate are sure signs of efforts to hide. Diversion is yet another tactic to transfer the heat from them onto Rashid’s attorney, Zehir Omar.
While not successful in garnering public outrage against Omar’s tenacious and courageous attempts to lift the veil over Rashid’s disappearance, the Minister of Home Affairs has scored another own-goal by getting the entire Cabinet to endorse her unwarranted smear of Omar.
The comedy of errors does not stop there. In papers filed in the Pretoria High Court in opposition of an application to by Omar to declare Rashid’s arrest, detention and removal from South Africa unlawful, Home Affairs has applied to have him [Omar] attorney imprisoned!
How much more bizarre can it get?
Seeking to shoot the messenger was part of the armory used effectively by the despicable apartheid regime in the past. Curtailment of free speech and draconian legislation to criminalize legal probes was rudimentary then. Banishment and detention was the order of the day.
All opposition to the National party rule was ruefully proscribed as “terrorism”.
The parallels which exist between the US-led “War on Terror” and apartheid’s ruthless violent clampdown of a legitimate freedom struggle, may sound ominous to the neo-con architects of this epic assault on fundamental human rights. Nevertheless, victims of South Africa’s racist regime; those incarcerated at Robben Island; those who disappeared without a trail; those who died in detention and thousands more who were persecuted and oppressed will certainly identify with the millions of people who are on the receiving end of America’s unjust wars.
The question therefore, whether Rashid is a “terrorist” or wanted as such by the US or any of its allies – whether they are Britain or Pakistan – ought not to be of any consequence in present day South Africa. Yet, an inherent message being communicated by home affairs despite their insistence that his deportation is a simple matter of removing illegal immigrants is precisely that he was a “terrorist”!
The paradox is that while his disappearance is clearly linked to allegations of “connections with international terrorist cells”, based on a statement issued by government communications on behalf of the justice, crime prevention and security cluster, insufficient grounds for extradition led the ministry of home affairs to “deport him as an illegal foreigner”.
So what is playing out here?
Waterkloof Air Force Base – a strategic military installation – is the uncanny location for Rashid’s mysterious departure aboard an equally obscure chartered flight to who knows where. Guantanamo Bay is ruled out since Bush and his coterie of rightwing advisors stretching from Tel Aviv to Washington, are under immense pressure to shut down this modern-day gulag.
Viktor Bout – former KGB major and notorious gunrunner – is the person to whom A6-PHY, the registration number of the jet has been traced to. That this person, whose widely documented involvement in criminal activities earned him the sobriquet “The Merchant of Death”, and who faces arrest by Interpol, is able to flirt with South African security agencies, is incredulous!
The Rashid saga has placed an enormous responsibility upon the South African government to either refute or confirm growing speculation that it has developed subtle ties with the Pentagon’s wholly discredited “War on Terror”.
Efforts to rubbish this proposition as “insulting” do not advance its commitment to multilateralism. In fact, until it desists from defending an embarrassing episode of “extraordinary rendition” as “lawful deportation”, the South African public will justifiably remain cynical.