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The ISS’s Fabricius and Els are war-mongering and there must be another way…

Peter Fabricius in content and  headline purports to  explore the issue scholastically thus: How serious is the Islamic State threat to attack South Africa?  He is a consultant at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and they are  hard at work “to build knowledge and skills that enable sustainable peace, development and prosperity in Africa.” In addition, they  purport to be ‘independent, credible and have a reputation for delivering impact locally, nationally, regionally and internationally.’ However, after reading and listening to their recent campaigning for increased SADC troops to be placed in the subregion makes them a hard right lobby group and not an African research body. As I will explain, they fail to make the case why the youth of this country should be dying in foreign countries. They have for years and consistently since tried to explain the threat of Islamic terrorism spilling over from neighbouring Mozambique into South Africa and now on flimsy grounds pile up the fear mongering.

As regards the Business Day did not add any value to the debate but instead used their paper to parrot and  pamphleteer the main allegations and I believe this response will deal with them in tow. They did not pretend to be neutral in their headline and asserted: SA at ‘significant’ risk of terror financing by Islamic State

Whilst Fabricius wrote the article  Willem Els was doing the radio rounds. I heard him on SAFM’s the National Pulse hosted by Ashraf Garda  and later on CHAIFM’s Afternoon Overdrive host Michael McKenna.  Els is the  Senior Training Coordinator on terrorism and explosives at the Transnational Threats and International Crimes Programme at the ISS. His Chaifm brief was to talk about How South Africa mitigating its risk of becoming a terror hub for Islamic states. 

This was a full on media engagement.  When Fabricius wrote the article headlined How serious is the Islamic State threat to attack South Africa?  I assumed a scholarly investigation that will inform and educate South Africans. Maybe he was  asking for a friend. Or he had other motives but he did state that whether these terror groups are a threat to us in Mzansi or not has ¨been a contentious topic for some time.¨  In addition, it has not stopped him from admitting that ¨ the precise nature of that insurgency remains hazy, Islamic State has for some months been laying claim to the attacks. The extremists themselves, generally known as Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama, have proclaimed allegiance to Islamic State.¨

I will not go further into his article, suffice to say that he and Els cover the same ground as I will explain hereunder.

In the Chai Fm interview Els makes damning many allegations which social justice actors must take up for further discussion and action. I will try to focus on three of these only:

  1.  Els stated that children from the age of 9 (nine) are being radicalised in the madrassas, and talking about terrorism and ISIS ‘ the smear was clear but the details were not provided. Just a general assertion.
  2. Els laments the SADC troops demobilisation which already saw Lesotho, Botswana already out and this is likely to be finished by the 15 august 2024
  3. South Africa’s greylisting by the  Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in 2023 because of supposed weaknesses in its anti-money-laundering system has opened the gate for the assertion by Els on the programme:we do not do well on policing terror funding in and out of South Africa and that the implication was clear to the listener that people here are laundering money for the ISIS or its derivatives.

It is clear that the bogey of “Islamic Terrorism” is projected as a problem by both Els and Fabricius who fail to not even contemplate that the  mercenary activities  by South African private military company Dyck Advisory Group may contribute to a spillover of terrorism into South Africa. As self asserted research bodies they do not make the case why young men and women must die in Mozambique, the DRC or elsewhere. The threats and talk of security masks the real issues at stake which we hope they would spell out in the near future. They have been on this theme since or before 2017.

As intellectuals of the RIGHT, I understand why they ignore socio economic and political conditions there. I was hoping that they could get into deeper conversations about the gas explorations (gas is a fossil fuel under the earth) and critical raw materials in the subregion and particularly in Mozambique. We have the right to ask: in whose interests are these being explored? Are these minerals and gases   beneficiated for its own people or simply extracted to Europe or the USA in competition with China.

Instead of subregional development or the development of Mozambique Els, Fabricius call for the restoration of the capacity in the intelligence agencies which were severely undermined during the previous administration. In addition, they call for tighter control of the country’s largely porous borders, whilst important, ignore the bigger socio-economic base of the current strife in Mozambique (cabo del gado etc). They do not for a moment think that Mozambique remains one of the most unequal countries in the world and guns and troops will not resolve or end the wars.

Whilst they insist on WAR – WAR, I hasten to add we need JAW JAW. We need to talk beyond beefing up our counter-terrorism expertise and increasing armaments and coordination with men who carry guns. It has not worked and will not work. We must talk with others excluded and ask them and their leaders what they want to do with their raw materials – critical or otherwise.

The militarists in journalism or in the field must take a back seat. Citizens have to read / listen and view wider than what is given. That local people and organisations join up or use other disaffected groups to highlight their plight is a reason not to add fuel to fire. It is a time for an Ubuntu-centred national and regional conversation.

The South African based, African NGO ACCORD, despite also calling for SADC intervention in the subregion,  nevertheless correctly locates the causes of the insurgency in Mozambique as being instigated by poverty, lack of socio-economic opportunities, marginalisation, discrimination, inequality and the frustrations of young people as a result of prolonged and unresolved conflict in the country. Whilst the country is well-endowed its people suffer and they are correct to point out that Mozambique’s vast mineral deposits  include coal, iron ore, tantalum, titanium, copper, bauxite, lithium and gold, as well as the newly discovered natural gas reserves in Rovuma Basin, which have the potential to transform the country into a significant exporter of liquified natural gas (LNG).

When the conflict rose to prominence in 2017, the economy was in a mess and unemployment amongst the youth was over 40 percent. Energy poverty was high as close to 30 percent of the population has no access to the electricity grid, and these gas explorations were going to exclude them or at least not consider them as first recipients. This is a familiar story that we see everywhere including South Africa where we work and live.

The increased mining of these resources would further put strain on the access of the poor to water and quality sanitation, impacting further on their food insecurity. The NGO pointed out that about a quarter of the population experienced hunger or malnourishment in 2017.

This view is not the only view as others like the Club of Mozambique seem to not believe that the strife is not homegrown but then again as they say they serve power: We are a leading news source, giving global brands access to an affluent online audience through our media partnerships.

The ISS team, are either part of or contributing to the rightwing Western agenda that will fuel conflict in Cabo Delgado and wherever minerals and natural resources lie. The aim is not African self-reliance but for a continuance of the colonial extractivist project. From what I have heard and read about the subject I wonder if South Africans have more to fear from lobbyists and propagandists than the fear of so-called Muslim terror.

Hassen Lorgat