NIA: Violence deliberately unleashed

The recent wave of so-called xenophobic violence had been deliberately unleashed ahead of next year’s general election, National Intelligence Agency (NIA) Director General Manala Manzini said at a Cape Town conference of African intelligence heads on Thursday.

At least 42 people have been killed and 16 000 displaced since the outbreak of the attacks on foreigners in Alexandra on May 12.

Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils, who was also at the meeting, told the South African Press Association that while there were “pure criminal elements” at work, intelligence agencies were looking very carefully at “other sources motivating this with their own political agendas”.

Manzini said that in the run-up to the 1994 democratic elections, “elements” that supported the apartheid regime had delivered weapons to hostels for use in attacking communities.

“We are beginning to see those movements taking place currently, into hostels where people are beginning to organise and resuscitate some of those people that they have had contact with in the past. To provoke and encourage them to unleash violence.
That we are beginning to pick up.”

He said although the media had defined the violence as xenophobic, the problem was more complex than that, because South Africans of Tsonga and Venda descent had also been targeted.

“So it cannot be defined as xenophobia. Xenophobia is too limited a definition of what we are experiencing,” he said.

“We believe that as South Africa prepares for another national election early next year, the so-called black-on-black violence that we witnessed prior to our first election in 1994 has deliberately been unleashed and orchestrated.

“Because we believe there are forces in this country and outside who continue to refuse to accept that we are capable as a people to rule and govern ourselves, that we are capable as Africans to set an agenda that seeks to uplift our people from the shackle of poverty visited upon us by the colonial past.”

He said as South Africans consolidated their democracy, they should expect that there would be those in their midst “influenced and supported by external forces”, who would always want to “push us to the back”.

“The democracy project we are engaged in as a continent has meant many of our detractors have spent time and resources planning on how best to make us fail,” he said.

Asked whether the intelligence community had failed by not warning of the outbreak of violence, he replied: “Absolutely not.”

He said that as early as January, the NIA was already “giving indications of serious problems beginning to affect some of our situations, especially in Alexandra”.

He said there were challenges in service delivery, and corruption, especially in the allocation of housing.

‘There was organisation’

Part of the reason people took it out on foreigners was that they discovered that though they were on a waiting list for a home, a foreigner who had taken advantage of corruption in the system might be renting out as many as four homes.

“Because people sometimes do not find channels to raise their complaints, they resort to [violence].”

But he said he wanted to stress it was not a case of people simply going out to attack others.

“There was organisation ... We have names of people who called meetings.”

Kasrils told Sapa that the intelligence services were working flat out to assess exactly what was at the root of the violence.

He said it was known that socioeconomic factors were involved, and those had to be dealt with in the long term, but at the same time there were “elements” involved in the violence.

“There are pure criminal elements at work. At the same time, we are looking very carefully at other sources motivating this with their own political agendas.

“I’m not pointing to any political party as such, I don’t believe that.

“But at community level, at levels of organisation, residents’ organisations, we have come across some elements there who have been talking in a very anarchistic way.

“This has to be investigated, this has to be substantiated.”

Asked whether the intelligence services had been caught napping by the outbreaks, he said it was one thing to know that there was a social problem based in poverty and alienation, marginalisation and frustration, and another to know when that outburst would occur.

“I must say that in this particular situation this has been very carefully concealed, some of the organised actions that are taking place in Alexandra and just these last few days in Ekurhuleni.

“It’s not as though it’s that simple when you’ve got organised groups and when they know and understand how to behave in a clandestine fashion.

“Nevertheless, I’m not making excuses. That’s the nature of the challenge.”—Sapa

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