IS A 'THIRD FORCE' INVOLVED?

Mail & Guardian, 1 June 2008

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Xenophobic attacks in some areas of South Africa were organised and planned beforehand, but probably as a result of local tensions rather than a “third force”, says Minister of Intelligence Ronnie Kasrils. “There is no intelligence at this stage to suggest that the attacks were orchestrated by some hidden hand manipulating the events,” he said. Suggestions by the Director General of the National intelligence Agency, Manala Manzini, that there is such a third force were simply the director general highlighting the similarities with the pre-1994 pattern of violence and the sinister forces involved at that time — something that cannot be ignored now. Rather, Kasrils said, the “deepest causes of this violence lie in the deep socio-economic challenges of our country and of the region. While poverty and deprivation continue to exist tensions over scarce resources are bound to be ever present. In the current climate of rising prices many of these tensions of this kind may be heightened.” As a result, the intelligence minister said, there is a risk of the violence recurring. “I wish to caution that the root causes remain and will, for some time to come. Something could arise as a trigger — whether spontaneous or organised. We have seen how easy this is given the current conditions. As a country we have overcome big challenges in the past and I want to believe that we can do so now. The attacks were stopped by deploying security forces to hot spots, Kasrils said, and by mobilising political parties and civic organisations to oppose further violence. The intelligence minister said that while his agencies had been aware for some time of tensions over resources, they did not realise that attacks on foreigners were imminent. “Social outbursts such as we have witnessed are probably the most difficult for any intelligence organisation to predict accurately. “Some considerable introspection by the intelligence services will have to be undertaken to determine whether these events could have been precisely predicted including examining methods of detecting such phenomena. “It is not enough to say that we are sitting on a time bomb but rather to know when and where it might go off. If there is a degree of organisation one needs the relevant sources.” He said that while the security forces and intelligence services are working around the clock to ensure order in communities “we all have responsibility in making sure that the violence is stopped, that criminals are isolated and apprehended, and that those who have been displaced are integrated back into the communities they were living in. “While concerns about access to resources are valid, it does not in any way justify the violence. “Government faces huge challenges in delivering services to our people and in managing migration in a manner that does not place undue burden on our resources.” ANC MP Obed Bapela says no stone will be left unturned to uncover “third force” elements responsible for sparking the xenophobic violence in South Africa. Bapela recently led a parliamentary investigative task team to areas that were affected by the violence. He says these destabilising elements used South Africa’s fragile socio-economic state as a catalyst to incite the violence. One has to look at the areas affected, he adds, to see that the acts were “organised and orchestrated” to take advantage of the “impatience” of South Africans caused by lack of service delivery and the high unemployment rate. Bapela says communities told his delegation that some of the perpetrators were hired from KwaZulu-Natal on a “mission” or “job”, for which they were only given the details when they arrived in Gauteng. He adds that they were informed that a group travelling in a minibus would spark the violence in one area before moving on to another location. The violence that spread across Gauteng, according to Bapela, was caused by “copycats” of the first outbreak, in Alexandra. To support this theory, Bapela says the police have arrested an armed group travelling in a minibus. Gauteng police provincial spokesperson Director Govinsamy Mariemuthoo could not immediately confirm this. Although not entirely exonerating the IFP, which last week vehemently refuted suggestions that it played a role in the violence, Bapela says that “it could be third force elements beyond the IFP”. It is also possible, he says, that other forces bent on encouraging “black on black violence” are involved. He says that some community members interviewed say the IFP was involved, as the violence broke out after an IFP meeting at a hostel. But Bapela says no one will be spared in the ongoing investigation. “We have said to the police please do not be shy if any ANC members are involved.” Bapela and his delegation visited areas such as Alexandra and Tembisa on a fact-finding mission to look at root causes of the violence.