Pandor: 'White Widow' passport was cancelled in 2011

Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor. (Gallo)

Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor. (Gallo)

Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor told a media briefing on Thursday afternoon that a South African passport alleged to have been used by the so-called "White Widow" Samantha Lewthwaite to enter Kenya had been issued in Durban but was "cancelled" in February 2011, following an investigation that established "it had been fraudulently acquired".

Lewthwaite is alleged to have been involved in the apparent terror attack on the Westgate mall in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, on Saturday, and the subsequent four-day siege, which has left at least 72 people dead and several more injured.

Lewthwaite had allegedly acquired the passport – which was an authentic South African travel document – by fraudulently using the identity of South African citizen Natalie Faye Webb through a late birth registration process. But Pandor said it "was no longer a legal travel document since it's been cancelled on our system" following the 2011 investigation.

According to eNCA, Lewthwaite spent time in South Africa using a false name and passport. During this time, she went by the name Natalie Faye Webb and lived in Johannesburg.

Lewthwaite signed four rental leases in and around Johannesburg suburbs in 2009.
 

In 2011, the Randburg Magistrate's Court issued a judgment against her for more than R20 000 that was owed to First Rand Bank. In the same year, Webb had debts of close to R20 000 written off by retail stores Truworths and Ackermans.

Flagged passport
According to Pandor, the last reported use of the passport on the country's movement control system was in February 2011 prior to its cancellation. She said the passport had been flagged by both Interpol and the country's own monitoring systems for the possibility of it being used by a potential terror suspect.

She added that home affairs still had to make "a clear connection" to the passport, which was issued in Durban – how, and by whom - and that her department "haven't been able to source that detail" as yet. The minister also did not rule out a more in-depth investigation into the real Faye Webb.

Pandor confirmed that Lewthwaite had first used the passport to enter South Africa in July 2008, with further visits to the country "on more than one occasion". The department has also put all other "related passports" – it is understood that her children also hold South African travel documents – acquired under the assumed identity of Faye Webb "on a stop list".

With the South African government seemingly intent on distancing itself from the bombings in Nairobi, Pandor said she "strenuously" denied any association between the attack and South Africa "until I have seen further evidence".

Adding that there was no evidence before her to suggest the South African passport had been used by Lewthwaite to gain entry to Kenya, Pandor also said there had been "no formal request" made to the South African government by Kenyan authorities "to give attention to this matter" of Lewthwaite's alleged use of the passport.

Said Pandor: "There has been no contact from the government, police or security service of Kenya indicating that a South African passport was used" in Lewthwaite gaining entry into Kenya.

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi is a freelance journalist.His areas of interest include social justice; citizen mobilisation and state violence; protest; the constitution and the constitutional court and football. Read more from Niren Tolsi

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