Is South Africa gripped in an epic drama in which the specter of what is disparagingly described as “Islamist terror” looms large?

Or is the current hype merely a storm in a tea cup, ideally suited for TV soap operas?

Media has been ablaze with banner headlines since the arrest last weekend of four young Muslims. The Patel siblings in Azaadville (West Rand) and the Thulsie twins in Nancefield, Johannesburg.

In dramatic dawn raids, South Africa’s equivalent of the FBI known as Hawks, pounced on their homes and after hours of roughshod disruptive searches, arrested and jailed the four.

Cowboy-style raids, breaking down doors to gain entry by heavily armed security officials is a fall back to apartheid days. Not what one expects of the ANC-led government presiding over democratic South Africa? Though the raids bear no resemblance to the Marikana massacre, it is a reminder that excessive force can have tragic consequences.

Intended or not, the raids have been traumatic for the Patel and Thulsie families. Apart from the contention by their legal teams that the Hawks’ conduct was overbearing, family members are hurt and distressed at being treated as criminals.

Since the story broke, the country has been fed with constant bombastic news implying that timely action by the Hawks made a breakthrough by preventing bombs going off at American and Jewish interests.

Hardly any covered the brutality of the raids. Or that in Azaadville, the Patel’s neighbour’s house was also raided, searched and its occupants traumatised by the intimidatory tactics used by the Hawks.

As expected, the enforcement of counter-terror measures based on American inspired laws, civil liberties take a huge toll.

Who cares if the rights of the Thulsies and Patels are sacrificed at the altar of the “War on Terror”, as long as a terror plot is disrupted seems to be the tone of public discourse informed by sensational one-dimensional reports.

Giving undue credence to bigoted views by a few self-proclaimed “experts on Islamist terror” does not make it acceptable to mislead public opinion, nor to generate hate against Muslims.

Yet this appears to have been the standard approach in reports that have piggybacked on warnings issued by the US embassy of impending terror attacks at shopping malls during Ramadan.

That Ramadan had come and gone without any incident, was it realistic to expect an apology from the American ambassador for associating a period of fasting and increased spiritual devotion with fear and alarm?

That media failed to challenge America’s allegations implies that it can get away with all kinds of nonsensical claims without accountability.

And notwithstanding the fact that the arrest of the four is not linked to the American warning, some in the media have selectively chosen to ignore this. On the contrary, reports have surfaced to “manufacture” links which are utterly disingenuous and unfairly allows America to escape censure.

Taken out of context we thus have the following scenario:

 

  • South Africa faces terrorism threats posed by “radical” Muslims;

  • “Radicalisation” is a common occurrence; • ISIS is present in South Africa; • Recruitment for ISIS is an ongoing threat; • Bombing of American targets are being plotted and planned.

These perceptions owe their origin to discredited info-peddlers, many with undisguised links to Israel.

Some even made representations to the US Senate on the eve of the soccer World Cup hosted in South Africa during 2010, leading to alarm – not dissimilar to the current US Embassy warnings – splashed across front pages of newspapers, TV and radio broadcasts.

That none of the above had been proven is a question which media has not dared to ask its regular “terror pundits”. Why not?

Why allow untested claims to be passed off as fact?

If Israeli-linked “think tanks” such as TRAC and its “expert” Jasmine Opperman make audacious claims insisting that ISIS recruiters are active in South Africa and that “Radicalisation” is occurring, surely she needs to provide verifiable evidence.

Instead we’ve seen a shameful display of unprofessional media interviews and column-space providing the likes of her space to fuel undue alarm without being challenged to prove her fairytales.

It is within this background that the arrest of the Thulsie brothers and the Patel siblings have heightened tensions and led to wild speculation.

Neither the possibility of Hawks reacting to American pressure nor the reality of FBI-style entrapment has been been canvassed by media. Again we are curious to know why not?

Entrapment and false flag operations spurred on by faceless intelligence agents cannot be ruled out. It’s a game far more dangerous than the obnoxious reference to “Radicalisation” and possesses severe consequences for those entrapped and their intended victims.

Given the circumstances of the current hysteria generated by the raids and arrest, and the valuable information garnered by the attorneys and human rights NGO Cage Africa, it does appear to be a storm in a tea cup.

Iqbal Jassat

Executive: Media Review Network

Johannesburg

Twitter: @ijassat

Iqbal Jassat

Iqbal Jassat is an acclaimed writer, analyst and commentator and one of the founder members of MRN. His analysis is featured regularly in mainstream and alternate media outlets around the world.