DM168

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

Don’t let our fears of terrorism triumph over our empathy

Don’t let our fears of terrorism triumph over our empathy
A displaced Syrian boy walks between the tents in a Turkish Red Crescent camp near the village of Atmeh, which hosts nearly 1 million displaced Syrians along the Turkish-Syrian border, 17 September 2019, in Idlib Province, Syria. (Photo: Burak Kara / Getty Images)

We have strived to surmount mountains of familial rejection, death threats, murder and prejudice through a Constitution that recognises and defends us. A terror attack on the Pride March would be an attack on this hard-won right, feed the haters and roll us back into the closets of the dark ages. We need to be cautious, but not let fanatics bully us out of the values and lifestyle we hold dear. 

Dear DM168 readers,

I am writing from above the clouds on an aeroplane heading to Cape Town to attend one of our quarterly Daily Maverick leadership get-togethers.

I am feeling a bit anxious about leaving behind my partner and two sons in Gauteng this weekend, as the US issued a terror alert warning its citizens of a potential terrorist attack in the greater Sandton area of Johannesburg.

The 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.”

As reported by my colleague Peter Fabricius, our government has played down this alert, but other countries – among them the UK and Australia – have warned their citizens to stay clear of big gatherings in Sandton, in particular, and broader Gauteng in general. 

Our own homegrown varietals of terrorism are scary enough, such as the right-wing desperadoes trying to turn back the tide of history and last year’s Zuma-inspired chaos, mayhem, looting and death churned in the bowels of our governing party.

But we are so accustomed to our dysfunction that the minute the terror warning was issued, the WhatsApp jokes and Insta comedians took to our phone screens. 

A terrorist attack was foiled by hijackers in Hillbrow who stripped the vehicle and sold the car parts as spares in 30 minutes. 

Another group of terrorists hit a pothole, blew all tyres and told the others to go ahead without them.

A group of terrorists reached the target of a building in Sandton but could not get through the doors due to load shedding and a lack of battery back-up. 

The terrorists were so gatvol, they retired to a pub full of boere from Brakpan who didn’t smaak the way they looked, so bliksemmed them for fun.

Ja-nee. You gotta love South African humour. 


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I really hope this warning of a terrorist attack turns out to be untrue, not just because of my fear for the safety of my family and all my fellow Gautengers, but also because one of the prime suggested targets, according to my journalist colleagues at TimesLive, is the Gay Pride march in Sandton. 

Why would anyone want to bomb or randomly shoot at a joyous celebration of the right to love whoever we wish? Us Pride marchers over the years have had a fair share of Christian fundamentalists hurling insults and all manner of missionary missiles at us. 

We have strived to surmount this and other mountains of familial rejection, death threats, murder and prejudice through a Constitution that recognises and defends us. A terror attack on the Pride March would be an attack on this hard-won right, feed the haters and roll us back into the closets of the dark ages.

The UK terror warning noted the threat could emerge from individuals who may have been inspired by terrorist groups, including Daesh (also known as Isil, Islamic State, or Isis), to carry out so-called lone actor attacks targeting public places, including where foreigners may gather.

As Fabricius wrote in an article for the Institute for Security Studies, the growing assertiveness of Islamic State in the brutal insurgency in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province and South Africa’s involvement in helping the Mozambicans to counter the insurgency, have made our country a target. 

We need to be cautious, but not let fanatics bully us out of the values and lifestyle we hold dear. 

This week’s DM168 global exclusive front-page lead story by Rebecca Davis was researched and investigated over the past few weeks – long before we caught wind of this terror threat, although it might seem coincidental. 

In her research, Davis has discovered several South African women and children trapped in the Al Hol and Roj camps in northeast Syria, where almost 60,000 people have been detained since the collapse of the Islamic State in 2019. 

The women and children have been detained because they are believed to be Islamic State jihadists or the families of detained or killed jihadists.

Davis’ investigation, however, shows that many of the women in detention in northeast Syria are victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation, and that most of the South Africans abandoned in these life-threatening conditions are children.

We do not know how these women and children landed in a Syrian hellhole, but we do know that the only humane thing to do is for Minister Naledi Pandor to get them home. 

I hope we do not let our fears triumph over our empathy. DM168

Heather

PS If you would like to share your views on this letter and have them published in  DM168, email me at [email protected]

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.

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