Aziz Pahad was questioned about Mohamed’s release to the US. He said Mohamed had been “deported” by South Africa to the US after cooperation with the FBI. When asked about the Constitutional Court judgment that found that Mohamed had been handed over illegally to the US and its implications if US terror suspects were arrested in South Africa, Pahad said: “We cannot violate our constitutional positions.” [90]

South Africa was also very cooperative with the FBI during the investigation into the 9/11 attacks. Their authorities assisted their US counterparts in investigating a high number of leads. It was announced in the media days after the attacks that Pahad confirmed none of the 40,000 leads followed up by US investigators had led to South Africa.[91] Pahad also explained in October 2002 that the war on terrorism put additional demands on the Department of Foreign Affairs and had changed the focus of its work. He said his country was fast-tracking a new counter-terrorism law, which would probably be passed in 2003. This new legislation would bring together various anti-terrorist measures into one law.

South African President Thabo Mbeki signed a proclamation the following month that stipulated The Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorism and Related Activities Act – known as the anti-terrorism law – would come into effect in May 2005. The new Act brought South Africa fully in line with UN and African Union (AU) terrorism conventions. In particular, it created a general offense of terrorism, and offenses relating to terrorist activities, such as recruiting, assistance to commit terrorist activities, and facilitating terrorism. However, the Act excludes from the definition of “terrorist activity” actions in pursuance of a liberation struggle in accordance with principles of UN and AU Charters.

Perhaps the clearest indicator of South Africa’s role in the US led war against Islamic extremism is the events that surfaced at the same time of the passing of the terrorism law. Reports indicated that the South African government was directly implicated in “rendition,” a now famous practice whereby foreign nationals accused of terrorist involvement are kidnapped and sent overseas to be interrogated, often tortured, and sometimes even disappear. The US has often used rendition and journalists have documented European governments either allowing CIA agents to carry out kidnappings or permitting CIA-operated airplanes to land en route to secret facilities in Eastern Europe or countries such as Afghanistan and Egypt.

In November 2005, South African newspapers such as The Star and the Mail and Guardian published reports suggesting that the South African authorities may have cooperated with the American and British governments and their intelligence agencies in the rendition of Pakistani citizen, Khalid Rashid, who was arrested in 2004 at his home in the town of Estcourt in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Province for alleged involvement in terrorist activities.[92] At the time, Rashid had not been seen since his arrest on 31 October 2005.

O’Keeffe writes that the register at the Cullinan (northwest of Pretoria) police station confirms that Rashid and another man by the name of Jeebhai were held there.[93] It notes that police and South African Department of Home Affairs officials took Rashid out of his cell on at least nine occasions. Rashid was signed out for deportation twice, once on 06 November and then again the following day. Home Affairs claims Rashid was deported to Pakistan on 06 November, less than a week after his arrest. However, according to his family, Rashid never arrived in Pakistan. Moreover, the department was unable to give the flight number, the name of the airline, or the name of the person who met him on arrival in Pakistan.[94]

In April 2007, Rashid reappeared before the “Federal Review Board” in the Supreme Court Building in Islamabad. Amnesty International was concerned for Rashid’s well being after nearly 18-months of being in detention with no communication. The international NGO had raised its concerns about this case with the South African Government in 2006, which appeared to have breached its obligations under Article 3 of the UN Convention Against Torture by participating in the enforced disappearance of and exposing Rashid to the risk of torture.[95] Rashid’s family and lawyers had accused South African authorities of arranging his removal to Pakistan under the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” program. South Africa repeatedly denied the charge saying Rashid was deported “under special circumstances” and flown to Pakistan where he was formally handed over to officials.[96]

Pahad said on numerous occasions, in reference to America’s rendition policy, that rendition goes against South Africa’s Constitution. Since the South African Constitutional Court ruled in 2001 that Mohamed’s removal to the US was unlawful, Pahad and others became increasing vocal against the US rendition policy. South Africa was also concerned about aspects of the war against Islamic extremism such as Guantanamo Bay.[97] However, the fact of the matter is South Africa cooperated with the US, as they let Rashid board the jet and be transported out of the country.

The author questioned both members of both the DFA and the US embassy on the matter of Rashid. The DFA refused to comment and the US government official simply said in a joking manner, “Come on, don’t ask that because you know I can’t answer. It’s classified.”[98]

After the Rashid incident, there appeared to be a lack of news regarding South Africa’s assistance with the US. This changed in February 2011, when US, UK and South African authorities arrested a 64-year-old South African businessman after a six-month collaborative investigation. “The suspect repeatedly, through letters and e-mails, demanded an amount of US$4 million (R29m) in exchange for not deploying a biological agent within the borders of the United Kingdom,” South African Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa stated.[99] There was also a similar threat against the US. US embassy spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said the arrest was “a long time coming” and that there was “close collaboration between the SA police service, American law enforcement based at the embassy as well as Scotland Yard.”[100] It was originally assumed that this businessman was an Islamic extremist, but it was later reported that the individual was in fact a white South African farmer by the name of Brian Roach.

It is not known what role the CIA had in this operation, or even if Langley is now collaborating with the South African intelligence community on a regular basis. However, it is known that the both President’s Obama and Zuma have dealt with their fair share of Islamic extremist related events such as the attempted terrorist attack on an airplane in route to Detroit on Christmas day in late 2009 and security threats prior to the FIFA World Cup held in South Africa in June/July 2010. With the latter, the American government went as far as issuing a travel alert for South Africa until the end of July 2010 saying: “There is a heightened risk that extremist groups will conduct terrorist acts within South Africa in the near future.”[101] This came after Iraqi authorities arrested an alleged al Qaeda supporter who claimed he was planning attacks on the Dutch and Danish teams, although the threat was later dismissed.[102] In the end, no incidents occurred at the World Cup, which included during a visit to South Africa by US Vice President Joe Biden.

Biden’s visit and continued bilateral meetings between both countries will prove crucial in the war against Islamic extremism. Another vital element will be Obama and Zuma’s similar views on the war and other international security related matters. The two met on the eve of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in April 2010, and according to the Readout of the President’s Meeting with President Zuma, the leaders took the opportunity to talk about important security issues, including efforts to combat terrorism.[103] Obama praised South Africa the following day at the Summit itself for voluntarily dismantling its nuclear weapons program. “I wanted to publicly compliment President Zuma and his administration for the leadership they have shown,” Obama said. “And we are looking forward toward the possibility of them helping to guide other countries down a similar direction of non-proliferation.”[104]

President Obama, who rejected the phrase “war on terror” early in his presidency, sees terrorism and the war against Islamic extremism as only one of America’s many vital tests over the coming years. The killing of Osama bin Laden was obviously a big victory, but the war is by no means over. Obama did state at the Nuclear Security Summit in 2010 that “the single biggest threat to US security, both short term, medium term and long term, would be the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon.”[105] He continued: “If there was ever a detonation in New York City, or London, or Johannesburg, the ramifications economically, politically and from a security perspective would be devastating,” he stated.[106] Obama regards South Africa as having a “special standing in being a moral leader on this issue.” Moreover, President Zuma and his commitment to the war against nuclear terrorism, brought South Africa “greater security and prosperity” in the international community, according to Ben Rhodes, a White House official who talked to reporters at the summit.[107]

The comradely shown at the Nuclear Summit between the two presidents, as well as the withdrawal of the ban on Professor Adam Habib and the six month joint investigation in 2011 are clear indicators that the US and South Africa will be looking to cooperate more in this particular field in the near future. However, Zuma feels that it is “important for countries to pool their resources and work together through strengthened multilateral institutions to combat all forms of organized transnational crime, including terrorism.”[108] The use of multilateral institutions is where the two countries may differ.


South Africa has long been involved in the international war against Islamic extremism. The collaboration with America in this regard has been an important component of the US-South African relationship in the post apartheid era. Although there were disagreements at times, such as the FBI hijacking of South African biological stock, over the Dockrats at the UN, and the length of time it took the US State Department to remove the ANC from its terror list, there were more instances of positive collaboration. This included: investigations into, the US Embassy bombing suspects, and 9/11; the assistance and cooperation in setting up the Scorpions; the illegal spiriting of Rashid and the collaborative effort to obtain the 64 year old South African businessman for threats of terrorism in 2011.

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki maintained that terrorism must not be allowed to flourish. Mbeki wrote after 9/11: “As we share the grief of the bereaved and seek to comfort those who are maimed, this we must say, that as a civilized people we condemn this act of terrorism unreservedly and will do everything we can, to ensure that our own society does not give birth to the ugly and repugnant formations that committed willful mass murder in New York and Washington.”[109] President Zuma undoubtedly shares a similar line of thought to Mbeki and has committed South Africa in the war against extremists, especially when it comes to plans to obtain any type of nuclear material.

Nevertheless, South Africa must be careful not to upset its local Muslim community and ANC constitutes who still see the US as a global bully only fighting because of its own interests. South Africa also does not want terrorist attacks to take place inside their own borders. More cooperation between the US and South Africa in the war against Islamic extremism is likely. However, it is also likely that this cooperation will be kept much quieter than during the Mbeki-Bush administrations. This silence will not only be beneficial for both countries, but for the overall war as well.