The risks of terrorism in South Africa are especially related to the Islamic State outbreak in Mozambique. Pretoria is very concerned about the jihadist escalation in northern Mozambique, particularly in the province of Cabo Delgado (but the provinces of Nampula and Niassa have also been targets of attacks). The private South African military company Dyck Advisory Group has already been present in the Mozambican theatre for some years, directly involved by the Maputo government. In 2020, the Islamic State threatened in its weekly al-Naba that South African intervention in Mozambique would lead the jihadist organisation to open a new front of armed struggle against them. In reality, this announcement by the Islamic State was probably an attempt to inspire ‘lone wolf’ attacks in South Africa. The growth of the Islamic State in Mozambique is constant, and in the last week, attacks and propaganda have intensified. This increases South Africa’s concerns. The rise of IS-MOZ has provided an opportunity for Islamic State sympathisers in South Africa to engage in active militancy without having to travel across the continent.
The Islamic State has sleeper cells in South Africa and has recruited South Africans into its ranks. Some of these fighters have fought with the group in Syria and Iraq (The estimated number of South Africans who have joined the Islamic State varies between 60 and 100) and many South African fighters are involved in Cabo Delgado and have joined IS-Mozambique. Direct links have already been identified in the past between Islamic State elements in Mozambique and recruitment and funding networks in South Africa. Funding for IS also apparently comes from South African organised crime, which is accused of financing jihadist groups in Congo and Mozambique. So for now, one can speak of links to IS centred on fund-raising and proselytising.
Homer’s IS cell was mainly raising funds for IS operatives elsewhere, such as Mozambique and DRC. Farhad Hoomer leads the South African IS cell to expand the group’s operations in southern Africa. Brothers Nufael Akbar and Yunus Mohamad Akbar are considered senior members of the Durban-based IS cell under the leadership of Farhad Hoomer. Yunus Akbar also serves as an enforcer and logistics coordinator for the IS cell. The objective is to recruit, collect and move funds to support the growth of IS affiliates and networks in Africa. The US-sanctioned companies linked to Hoomer and the Akbar brothers, such as MA Gold Traders (PTY) LTD, Bailey Holdings (PTY) LTD, Flexoseal Waterproofing Solutions (PTY) LTD, HJ Bannister Construction CC, Sultans Construction CC, Ashiq Jewellers CC, Ineos Trading (PTY) LTD and Shaahista Shoes CC, were probably all needed to carry out and cover this type of operation.
At the moment one cannot speak of jihadist groups in Africa. Of course, some cells are sympathetic to or support the jihadist idea of the Islamic State. Their operations are facilitated by the difficult economic situation in the country, poor intelligence and police controls, corruption, the presence of organised crime networks, South Africa’s inability to effectively tackle IS and the financing of terrorism. The lack of countering the activities of these cells may pose future risks, just as the problems inherent in South African intelligence services may pose security risks, such as the possibility of not intercepting IS-linked fighters returning from Mozambique and other areas who decide to conduct attacks in the country. Of course, it may be a matter of time, as has happened in other African countries, and I repeat, what happens in Mozambique may favour the future expansion of IS.
Read also: Perspectives of Jihadism in Africa
To date, there is no evidence that other groups outside the Islamic State have any interest in operating in South Africa or any networks in the country.
No African countries do not do enough or often fail to do enough to counter the illicit and financial activities of jihadist groups. In the case of South Africa for example, the FATF, a global intergovernmental watchdog of money laundering and terrorist financing, claimed that South Africa has failed to demonstrate that it is effectively prosecuting terrorist financiers or addressing and countering terrorist financing. The FATF report also accused South Africa of reluctance to classify politically motivated violent acts as terrorism, limiting its ability to counter terrorist financing.
Strengthening border control and surveillance, identifying vulnerable populations and critical infrastructure, enhancing regional intelligence sharing, strengthening rapid response mechanisms, enhancing counter-terrorism expertise and cooperation with other states, strengthening controls on illicit money transfers and cooperation with organised crime.