South Africa

EMBASSY ALERT

‘US was out of line; there’s no direct terrorist threat to SA right now,’ says Deputy State Security Minister Zizi Kodwa

‘US was out of line; there’s no direct terrorist threat to SA right now,’ says Deputy State Security Minister Zizi Kodwa
Deputy Minister of State Security Zizi Kodwa. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

The US has warned that a terrorist attack could unfold in Sandton this weekend. But Deputy Minister of State Security Zizi Kodwa says the US, in issuing the alert, created anxiety and did not follow the protocols SA would have.

South Africa is vulnerable in terms of criminals potentially planning to target it, but there is no direct terrorist threat to it now. Deputy Minister of State Security Zizi Kodwa said this during an event in Pretoria hosted by the National Press Club on Thursday evening. 

Among the issues he discussed was a security alert issued by the US embassy in South Africa on Wednesday that warned of a “possible terrorist attack” that could happen in Sandton on Saturday. 

Kodwa said SA intelligence representatives had met relevant US figures about the alert. 

‘We mustn’t create panic’ 

But he suggested that the US had not been willing to share information underpinning the alert. 

“We must never create panic. It’s not the role of intelligence to create panic in the country,” Kodwa said and suggested the US may not be “genuine” about sharing information. 

The US embassy’s alert said: “The US government has received information that terrorists may be planning to conduct an attack targeting large gatherings of people at an unspecified location in the greater Sandton area of Johannesburg, South Africa, on 29 October 2022.  

“There is no further information regarding the timing, method, or target of the potential attack. The US Embassy has advised staff to avoid crowds of people and other large public gatherings in the greater Sandton area of Johannesburg during the weekend of 29-30 October 2022.” 

In response, South Africa’s Presidency issued a statement saying: “Should the need arise, the South African government will be the first to inform the public about any imminent threat.” 

President Cyril Ramaphosa also weighed in on the matter on Thursday.

He described the US’s alert as “unfortunate”, as the US had not had any discussions with South Africa’s government before issuing it. 

Western embassies repeat US warning of possible terror attack in Sandton


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Sovereignty must be respected 

Kodwa, during the National Press Club event, backed Ramaphosa. 

“We do take such alerts very seriously because we must remain vigilant,” he said. 

But Kodwa added that South Africa’s intelligence services were linked to many other foreign services and that there were “protocols and courtesy” involved in dealing with them. This included respecting the sovereignty of other countries. 

If an issue relating to another country was picked up, the relevant ambassador would be approached and discussions would be held with authorities in that country. Kodwa said if this process was not followed, it could cause “anxiety”, such as the issuing of the alert had done. 

‘No direct threat’ 

“As a country we are vulnerable but … there is no direct terrorist threat to South Africa now,” he said. 

Kodwa referred to something else Ramaphosa had said — if a threat against South Africa was picked up, it should be South African authorities who announced it first. 

During the event, Kodwa also referred to the attempted insurrection of July 2021 that centred on KwaZulu-Natal, when civil unrest broke out after former president Jacob Zuma was jailed

An expert panel into why the unrest was not prevented had, according to Ramaphosa, found that among other shortcomings, “there was poor coordination between the state security and intelligence services”. 

Better agency bonds 

Kodwa referred to that finding and said work was being done to tighten working relations and strengthen the State Security Agency, which was previously politically skewed. 

In basic terms, Kodwa said, the agency had “dropped the ball” and work was being done to bolster it. He explained that in looking into how the July 2021 unrest developed, local government, especially service delivery, was a focus. 

David Africa, the executive director of the African Centre for Security and Intelligence Praxis, also spoke at Thursday’s event. He said the July 2021 matter needed to be explored much further. 

“How does it come … that poor black people can be weaponised against their own democratically elected state? How does it come to that?” Africa asked. 

He said the role of intelligence services was to continually explore that aspect, and not simply focus on why people were looting. 

Cybercrime, corruption and terrorism 

Kodwa focused on several other issues affecting South Africa. These included cybercrime, illegal mining, politically motivated killings, corruption and terrorism. 

He said threats to the country were being assessed on a continual basis. 

Kodwa also spoke about broader plans for the State Security Agency, saying it was being changed to be “more human-centric”. 

The aim was to shift the focus of the agency from that of “security of the state” to the “security of the nation”. DM

Caryn Dolley has spent years tracing the footprints of criminal kingpins from across the world. In her latest book, Clash of the Cartels, Dolley provides unprecedented insight into how specific drug cartels and syndicates have operated via South Africa, becoming embroiled in deadly violence in the country and bolstering local criminal networks. Available for pre-order from the Daily Maverick Shop here.

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  • jacki watts says:

    It is significant that I became aware through WhatsApp.. Not through any formal channel. The Embassy has a right to protect its staff. Given there is evidence of a threat.. Why the focus on finger pointing as opposed to dealing with it… July here we come again…

  • Peter Atkins says:

    Let’s have less worrying about protocols and more action about safety. Why would the US give us false warnings? They wouldn’t.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    The biggest reason South African citizens are under threat is from its own government whose mismanagement has resulted in a constant state of terror – load shedding, theft, corruption and ignorance by the politically connected, racist BEEpolicies inhibiting investment and jobs, a non existent police force and army, a shaky devaluing currency, bankrupt Municipalities, education failures, malnutrition in 25% of the children under 5yrs and over population all threaten the growth and stability of this country of ours.

  • R S says:

    Hawks members have said they were investigating a terrorist cell locally, so I wonder who Zizi was talking to?

  • Carsten Rasch says:

    Our Government is as sensitive as a twice-bitten lover when it comes to the US and the West. Don’t you dare touch us on our security! Never mind that we don’t know our arses from our elbows! Somehow they think that our international policies and our clearly positioned though misplaced loyalties have no effects on our relationship with the US and Europe.

  • Riette Fern says:

    “This included respecting the sovereignty of other countries.” How extraordinary that the SA Government gets upset at the US about this alert, yet we sit on the fence about Russia not respecting the sovereignty of Ukraine.

  • Rory Macnamara says:

    South Africa is out of line, out of date and out of almost everything because of this arrogant attitude. thank to USA for creating awareness instead of acting like spoilt brats.

  • Allan Wolman Wolman says:

    How comforting coming from Zizi

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    This is the same moronic cadre who trumpeted that the ANC was in the forefront of fighting corruption when their hand was forced by Thuli Madonsela on Zuma. Yeah right!! The ANC was dragged, kicking and screaming by the scruff of the neck, to finally start acting only by the huge opposition to it and LEST they lose power – not because they were anti corruption. If anything, they willingly and knowingly shielded and protected their many corrupt scumbags in their midst. It is thanks to the media, the whistleblowers, the NGOs, the churches, the population who were totally fed up etc and NOT the despicable ANC. Kodwa – you have zero credibility!! The US has every right to protect its citizens as our miserable and failed intelligence agencies (now there’s a contradiction in terms) are so busy in factional battles and stealing to their hearts content.

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    The US would not give such a warning without a credible source. The manner in which it gives such a warning is informed by several considerations one being the nature of the source of the information, the second being the nature and the cooperation between the US and intelligence agencies and whether the US views
    such intelligence agencies are of substance and have capabilities. A warning issued through its embassy it tells you that the US does not consider the intelligence services to have credibility or existent or can be trusted by the US without compromising its source. The fact that other western countries have followed suit should be a cause for concern. As a person, one would not believe any drivel from Zizi Kodwa who knows nothing about intelligence and who ought to be in the dock for theft and corruption. He was absent in July last year and his tickey intelligence has brought nobody to book for the insurrection except small fries. Companies in Sandton have informed staff not to be near Sandton from today showing that anything from Union buildings and Kodwa is just hogwash.
    Anyone with basic intelligence understanding, can enumerate several threats of terrorism in this country including terrorist financing. We need a very clear and strong intelligence shake up to beef our intelligence and security.

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