Will South Africa continue to ignore the growing danger of Isis on its doorstep, Al Venter asks.
The last time South Africa was threatened by a war on its own soil was 81 years ago, on 4 September 1939, when Jan Smuts led the Union in the war with Germany.
A week ago, the radical group Al Sounnah wa Djama’ah, a fragmentation of the Islamic State (Isis) who also called themselves Al-Shabaab (“the youth”), announced that they were fighting a battle in South Africa if the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) were to help the Mozambican government defeat their “justified rebellion”, according to Isis’ latest newsletter, Al-Naba .
Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban are all mentioned as possible seats of this struggle.
All three cities have large Muslim communities and radical elements are present, even after the downfall of the radical People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (Pagad), which according to intelligence sources still enjoy strong support.
The South African government has taken the latest threat by Isis seriously that it has decided to wait before deciding whether to send troops or the air force to Mozambique to help.
Mozambique’s jihadist movement has proven in recent months to be the most brutal and violent of all recent insurgencies in Africa.
Explicit videos of murders and mutilated bodies sent from Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province last week are worse than anything I saw when I reported two decades ago on the war in Sierra Leone, which itself was gruesome: Bodies are systematic chopped up, nearly every victim was beheaded, and limbs and body parts stretched wide over large sections of public roads.
It is a repetition of the Islamist violence by Boko Haram in Nigeria.
Al Sunnah started three years ago as a religious sect transformed into a guerrilla group whose radical program includes the most extreme version of Sharia law, such as the decapitating of hands due to theft and the ban on music. There is even talk that their operations are being financed with the proceeds of drug trafficking.
It’s hard to know exactly how many members they have, but there could easily be as many as 2,000 active participants organized in dozens of cells along Mozambique’s north coast, with access to many more fighters if the call was to go out.
This is what happened when Russia’s Wagner group became involved in late 2019 – jihadist volunteers flocked to Mozambique from Kenya, Uganda, Somalia and elsewhere, all via Tanzania, whose government made no effort at all to stop them. .
Moscow’s mercenaries held out for a meager three months and then fled Mozambique.
The jihadists may believe that this would happen if they launched a campaign in South Africa. Our borders are porous and no one knows how committed the SANDF will be in the fight against a well-motivated, organized and fanatical religious power, especially after nearly 2,000 innocent Mozambicans have been killed in the north of the country.
The question now being asked, and echoed by DA MP Kobus Marais in his question to the Minister of Defense and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, is whether South Africa is its ally in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) will urgently ask for action. Marais also wanted to know whether the government would simply ignore the growing danger of Isis on our doorstep.
Economic issues are also at stake: Jihadists have already killed contractors in Mozambique’s R23 billion natural gas project – the single largest investment project in Africa.
Some investors have already stopped their investments and a $ 30 billion rail project is also in the balance. America’s ExxonMobil and France’s Total tried in vain in Paris in November to agree on a fightback plan.
The Islamic march continues despite the presence of South African mercenaries of the Cape Lionel Dyck’s Dyck Advisory Group, which has already lost two aircraft in battle. Dyck’s performance is so poor that veteran helicopter pilot Neall Ellis refused a $ 100 a day offer to fly attack helicopters in the Mozambican war for Dyck’s group.