I read the article published 13 May 2013, in the Daily Maverick titled “Al Qaeda: Alive and well in South Africa”, about ex Vlakplaas reporter, De Wet Potgieter’s year long investigation regarding the Dockrat family particularly cousins- Junaid and Farhaad Ahmed. Potgieter alleges that the accused’s farm was a military training camp for al Qaeda. My thoughts were as Farhad Dockrat put it “ It is most curious that Potgieter’s article surfaces on a front page creating a media frenzy and hype all over South Africa on news which is 11 years old. Why now?”.
Well it goes back a few years. In January 2007, when South Africa was informed that the US intended to place two South Africans – the Dockrat cousins – on the UN Security Council’s list of terror suspects, South Africa was vehemently opposed to this. It is alleged that US terrorism financing trackers have noted suspicious financial transactions coming out of South Africa that appeared to benefit al-Qaeda. This allegation has been repeatedly denied by Farhad and none of the American authorities or CIA have been able to prove the allegation or give any evidence, let alone credible evidence, in support of the allegation. If the allegation was true, surely there could have been some evidence that could be brought forward. Why has it not been brought forward?
Concern was raised after agents say they saw people take part in military-style training at the Dockrat farm. No hard evidence however was brought against the accused Dockrats. US and British Intelligence together with South African Intelligence have failed to charge the Dockrat family members with any criminal activity, up until today.
There are two Reuter articles on the 21st and 29th January 2007 which provide good insight on the issue. The first article dated 21 January 2007, is entitled “Terror Accusations Meritless”. The second article dated 29 January 2007 is entitled “Rare Defeat for US in South African Al-Qaeda case by Mark Trevelyan, Security Correspondent”. An examination of the first article will clearly illustrate that both Junaid and Farhad Dockrat denied any allegations against them as “being patently false and devoid of merit”. The first article also stated that Prof Adam Habib, who himself was denied entry into the United States and deported back to South Africa while on a business trip in 2006, explained how the US had misled the United National Security Council in the past. He was quoted to have said: “On a number of occasions they have identified people who are not terrorists, how do we know this is not one of those times … if the security council is to recognise America’s position … they (the US) must provide proof for the UN and the South African government to interrogate.” (http://www.dailymaverick.co.za)
The SAPS top-secret, deep-cover operation – Operation Kanu – was driven by crime intelligence, and was launched shortly after the 9-11 World Trade Center terror attacks to investigate extremist Muslim activities in the country. Operation Kanu began at the same time as the parallel investigation into far right-wing activities called Operation Waco, according to Potgieter.
No arrests were made due to lack of evidence. However according to Potgieter, British and US intelligence agencies began to pressurise the South African government to act against any possible Muslim terrorist threats emanating from within South Africa.
Hussein Solomon, firm believer in terrorism in South Africa
This is where University of Free State, Senior Professor in the Department Political Studies and Governance, Hussein Solomon steps in. In September 2007, Hussein Solomonwas invited by the SAZF where he addressed a conference in Herzliya, in Israel, declaring that South African Muslims where running religious schools were terrorism was taught and terrorists trained. When challenged, he was unable to provide one scrap of evidence to substantiate any of his allegations. Solomon who is a regular author on the site, Research of Islam and Muslims in Africa (RIMA) was appointed Senior Research Associate of the Israeli think tank RIMA, headed by Dr. Moshe Terdiman.
Community activist and journalist Zahid Asmal on Cii Radio said that it was Solomon who was the mastermind behind the Daily Maverick article. Iqbal Jassat of the Media Review Network added “For more then a decade, Hussein Solomon has been desperate in getting government and security agencies to gang up against legitimate Muslim activities in the country. His latest allegations are not surprising. However, what is surprising is that mainstream media would give him such credibility, when he has been discredited,” bemoaned Jassat, referring to erroneous predictions by Solomon in 2009 that al Qaeda posed a grave danger to security at the 2010 soccer World Cup tournament.(http://www.ciibroadcasting.com)
Ejaz Khan, award-winning content producer at Radio Islam vented his opinion on the matter saying,“They” said that al Qaeda was going to bomb the World Cup stadia in 2010. The only bomb that fell was Lionel Messi’s failure to score a single goal in the entire tournament. The closest thing to “terrorism” was Nigel De Jong’s karate kick on Xabi Alonso in the World Cup final, and all that he got was a yellow card. Now “they” say al-Qaeda has training camps in the country. It is with great disappointment that once again the fear mongers have left their caves. They do so every few years –Hoosen Solomons and Co attempt to disrupt the equilibrium, fail dismally, and return to their caves forced to tear down the “Mission Accomplished” banner they borrowed from George Bush. They are not easily deterred and seem almost galvanised by failure. They are driven by trial and error, hoping that one day it would stick. Thankfully, it never does”. (http://www.dailymaverick.co.za)
In a RIMA article dated 9 May 2013, titled “Ask the Expert: Professor Hussein Solomon on Radical Islam in South Africa”, wrote “These include local groups like People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (PAGAD) who were responsible for an urban terror campaign in Cape Town in South Africa in the 1990s as well as external groups like Hezbollah and Al Qaeda offshoots such as Somalia’s Al Shabab. These latter groups have been described as either ”sleeper cells” which in the case of Hezbollah might well be activated in the event of say an attack on Iran’s nuclear establishment or using South Africa to hide their key personnel in safe houses whilst using the country to source funds and training local Islamists”. People commented on this post saying Solomon’s allegations have no iota of evidence except conjecture and presumption. The MJC had this to say about Prof. Hussein Solomon. “Solomon’s track record provides evidence of a man who failed dismally with previous attempts to discredit the Muslim community and who has now turned his attention on the vulnerable refugee Somali community. Solomons has a legal responsibility to provide proof and so too does the media”. The South African people are not easily fooled.
Solomon argues that South Africa may well have terrorists. He writes “Israel lodged a formal complaint with the South African government regarding the existence of five Hezbollah training camps in the country”. Again Solomon wrote in a RIMA article on 15 May 2013, “All surveillance was ceased on the orders, it would seem, from their political masters. Even more puzzling was the fact that despite incriminating evidence found by these operatives, no arrests followed Operation Kanu”. My question again, where is this incriminating evidence or footage?
The Daily Maverick article goes on to say that “In March of 2007, the Dockrats moved from Pretoria to a remote site in the Klein Karoo. The farm, Greylock, is relatively close to the village of Haarlem and nestles in a valley between two mountains in the Tsitsikamma mountain range”. They were accused of setting up a military training camp here. Farhad Ahmed Dockrat did put obstacle courses in place, including rope climbing, tree climbing, crawling through drums and other fitness obstacle courses, but there are similar courses and jungle gyms everywhere.
The rest of the article is more about the Dockrat families and marriage ties, their commercial venture of the Tsitsikamma Golf Estate and about Malawians working there. Nowhere does the article provide any evidence of terror training activities taking place at Greylock. De Wet Potgieter could identify the police units “Crimes against the State” and the “State Security Agency”, but could not identify the agency that blocked the investigation.
This is what the African Continental Development stated regarding this matter,
“The Company, being the owner of the Tsitsikamma Golf Estate, believes that the malicious allegations have been instigated by and emanate from a disgruntled ex-employee arising from a criminal charge laid against him.
The Company welcomes all investigations by the South African Police Services and other Agencies regarding the alleged illegal activities, and will fully cooperate with the authorities in such investigations.
We trust that the Daily Maverick is not being driven by an Islamophobic attack generated by a commercial venture of the Tsitsikamma Golf Estate, which has been placed under care and maintenance arising from the current economic climate; a fate suffered by numerous golf estates“.
Moulana Ebrahim Bham, Secretary General of the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa and the Imaam of one of the largest Muslim congregations in Gauteng at Hamidia Mosque in Newtown said today “It is our stance that where any kind of threats from terror shall exist, the Muslim community would not stand in the way of investigations and due process.
De Wet Potgieter’s recent installment on al Qaeda makes us wonder the motive of such reports which we consider to be sensationalisation of stale tales, citing dubious sources without much questioning and going into details that have nothing to do with any credible links to terrorism.
When we consider the gravity of the matter, we believe that the Daily Maverick could have applied more scrutiny to Potgieter’s report which is flawed even from a factual point of view. For instance, what has Pakistanis and Malawians frequenting a certain mosque have to do with al-Qaeda or terrorism?”.
Moulana Bham went further added, “In our view, the insinuation that a case against the Dockrats has been abandoned due to some obscure reason lacks merit. We are confident that relevant security agencies of the country have the capacity to deal with terror threats, real and potential, that the republic is exposed to, from time to time”. (http://www.dailymaverick.co.za)
The Daily Maverick article concluded “We have some information, but not yet in a form which we can present to you, our reader”.
So… Was this not just an attempt in creating discord between the South African people where there has been none for years? Side by side, majority of South Africans of all creed and colour have battled apartheid. Muslim and Jew, black and white, we have battled oppression. Let us continue to live in peace. “Long live Freedom, long live”, we have heard comrades in our government shout out and I hope that our constitution will continue to allow everyone the freedom of religion, no xenophobia, no terror and no hate. Come on Rainbow nation, united we stand in South Africa, our land.