US embassy insists it consulted with SA government before issuing terror alert

A sculpture of Nelson Mandela at the South African government's Union Buildings in Pretoria. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

A sculpture of Nelson Mandela at the South African government's Union Buildings in Pretoria. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

The United States embassy in Pretoria insisted on Wednesday that it had consulted with the South African government before issuing a terror alert on Saturday

This after the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) accused the US of failing to follow correct channels in dealing with the warning.

Earlier, the South African government said it was displeased with the “disingenuous” way some countries had issued alerts to their nationals in South Africa about possible attacks on upscale venues where these nationals might congregate in South Africa, especially shopping malls, in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The US embassy first issued an alert on Saturday, followed by both the UK and Australian embassies updating their travel alerts to their citizens travelling to South Africa.

Pretoria announced that it had “demarched” the countries which had issued the terror alerts.

A demarche, which involves calling in the ambassadors of the countries concerned to be reprimanded by a government minister or senior government official, is a serious expression of diplomatic protest.

In a statement on Wednesday, South Africa’s State Security Agency (SSA) and Dirco said the information on which the terror alert had been issued had been “very sketchy… dubious, unsubstantiated and provided by a ‘walk-in’ source based on questionable conclusions.”

It added that “the South African government rejects attempts by foreign countries to influence, manipulate or control our country’s counter-terrorism work. We reject attempts to generate perceptions of government ineptitude, alarmist impressions and public hysteria on the basis of a questionable single source.

“The South African government is fully capable of securing our country, protecting our people and taking care of the safety of foreign citizens on our soil. We expect foreign embassies on our soil to follow the correct channels when communicating matters of such nature.”

US embassy spokesperson Cindy Harvey emphasised on Wednesday that it was policy to share threat information, and said she had also explained this when the terror alter was issued on Saturday.

“When we receive specific, credible, non-counterable threat information, it is our worldwide policy for US embassies and consulates to share the information. We are cooperating with local authorities, as we do in any investigation into terrorist threats around the world,” Harvey said. – African News Agency (Edited by Michelle Solomon)



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