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Johannesburg - The ANC has ordered the government’s security cluster to review and strengthen the country’s security in the wake of the Kenyan terror attack that killed at least 67 people.
It has also instructed President Jacob Zuma’s administration to review the security features of South Africa’s identity documents, after reports that Samantha Lewthwaite, 29, the British woman who allegedly took part in the mall siege, travelled to Kenya as Natalie Faye Webb on a legitimate South African passport, granted on the basis of a forged ID document.
Speaking at a post-national executive committee (NEC) meeting briefing at Luthuli House on Sunday, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe condemned the “dastardly and terrorist act” of targeting innocent civilians at the Westgate shopping centre.
“In this regard, our own security cluster was directed by the NEC to analyse the attack and work on our security in liaison with relevant institutions in the continent and the world.
“This attack has highlighted the need for tighter immigration laws and processes, strengthening of the security features of the South African identity documents, and the monitoring of the movement of people in general and suspicious movements in particular,” said Mantashe.
He said the ANC was in solidarity with Kenyans in the aftermath of the tragedy.
He made it clear that the party supported the Kenyan government’s decision not to accede to Somalia’s al-Qaeda-linked rebel group al-Shabaab’s demand that it pull its troops out of Somalia.
“The NEC further supported the work that seeks to ensure stability and peace in the horn of Africa in general and Somalia in particular.”
In a move that might further pressure the International Criminal Court (ICC), Mantashe said the ANC had mandated Zuma “not to break ranks” with the continent when the AU debates Kenya’s request for countries to review their membership of the ICC.
“There is clear evidence that the ICC is used more to effect regime change in the majority of cases. The sovereignty of many African countries is undermined, as is the case in Kenya… which in effect amounts to a judicial coup,” Mantashe added.
Britain’s Mail on Sunday reported on Sunday that Lewthwaite is secretly married to a former officer in the Kenyan navy, a confidential Scotland Yard file on her revealed.
Lewthwaite, widow of 7/7 suicide bomber Jermaine Lindsay, left Britain for Africa with her children in 2009 and has been on the run for 20 months.
But a Mail on Sunday investigation revealed that her current husband – a man named Abdi Wahid, who in his forties – has been free to travel as he wishes and is currently in continental Europe.
Wahid was arrested in 2011 when police discovered that his house in the coastal city of Mombasa had been turned into a potential bomb factory by Lewthwaite – know as the White Widow – and her associates. He was never charged with any offence. Detectives now believe he could hold the key to unlocking her network of terror.
It is not known exactly when their marriage took place, but Lewthwaite had evidently left her old life in Britain behind by then and was deeply involved with al-Shabaab.
Wahid’s relationship with Lewthwaite has baffled detectives, given his military background and because he once worked as a private security officer in Afghanistan, guarding Westerners against attack from the Taliban.
He was previously described as Lewthwaite’s “landlord” at one of two houses where she stayed in Mombasa, until she came to police attention in January last year.
The police file, codenamed Operation Unigof, includes an “association chart”. At its centre are Lewthwaite and British terror suspect Jermaine Grant, 30, from Newham in London.
Grant is a Muslim convert who knew Lewthwaite’s husband Lindsay and is on trial in Mombasa on explosives charges.
There are extensive details of all the cellphone numbers linked with Lewthwaite, along with calls she has made to a woman, described in a police file as her “aunt”’, at an address in Birmingham.
The police document suggests that Lewthwaite may have called the aunt from Kenya as many as 42 times – the last four in November 2011 and January last year, shortly before she went on the run. All the calls went to voicemail.
The Scotland Yard file was compiled in the days following Lewthwaite’s narrow escape from police in 2011, a story that can now be revealed fully for the first time.
When officers raided the house where she was living, Lewthwaite convinced them that she was a South African named Natalie Faye Webb. She had a bogus passport, obtained by using another woman’s birth certificate.
A bag of money with thousands of pounds worth of assorted foreign currencies was also found at the house, but even that wasn’t suspicious enough to persuade the police to bring her in.
Instead, they took a copy of the passport and left. When they updated Scotland Yard, one of the London detectives realised that the woman posing as Natalie Webb was Lewthwaite.
The Kenyans returned to the house the next day, but she had gone.