The South African government reacted cautiously to the news that al-Qaeda founder and 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden was killed by US special forces in Pakistan on Monday.
In a statement issued by the Department of International Relations and Co-operation on Monday, the government said it had “noted the news of the passing of Mr Osama bin Laden”.
“South Africa reconfirms the commitment to the system of global governance of multilateralism. Our resolve to support peace, security and development in the world remains.
“We call upon all countries across the world to co-operate in stemming the demon of terrorism, in all its manifestations, out of global politics.”
But department spokesman Clayson Monyela said on Monday this could be seen as a “holding statement” and that the government was still “assessing the situation as it develops”.
He said the department would “probably say more on the subject” in the coming days.
SA Muslim Judicial Council spokesman Shuaib Appleby condemned Bin Laden’s killing, adding that his organisation also condemned the September 2001 attacks in the US.
“The idea is that extrajudicial killing is totally condemned by Islam. A person must be duly tried, with a court deciding on a punishment if the person is found to be guilty. We hope that with (Bin Laden’s) death, the kinds of ideas that Muslims globally were subjected to - the Islamophobia - and being associated with terrorism will cease with immediate effect,” he said.
ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said the ANC “cannot be part of the violent resolution of problems”, adding that the party condemned the killing of any person.
“Peace cannot be achieved though violence anywhere in the world. We find no joy in any death, even of people who call themselves terrorists,” he said.
Young Communist League secretary Buti Manamela was more critical of US actions, saying the killing of Bin Laden was an eye-opener to the “brutality” of the US.
“Our view is that all these things seek to prove to the entire world the brutality of the US. They claim to be the champion of peace and democracy but they are nothing but invaders and their anti-terrorism campaign is the greatest cover-up of their own terrorism. Through their president (Barack) Obama, they are the worst animal fighting in human skin,” he said.
The Media Review Network, a South African organisation with the self-declared aim of promoting understanding of Muslims and Islam, said it remained “concerned about the legality of the US-led ‘war on terror’” which had “unleashed abominable human rights violations, notably torture, rendition and detention without trial - all in pursuit of Bin Laden, al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, blamed for the New York outrage of 9/11”.
It asked, in light of reports that Bin Laden was living with family members and without armed guards, why he had not been “captured and afforded an opportunity to defend himself in an open court of law”.
“In addition, we are dismayed with scenes of celebration in America and the insensitive pronouncements of joy made by Israeli leaders and others in Europe,” it added.
There have been persistent suggestions that South Africa offers al-Qaeda operatives a relatively safe access route to other parts of the continent, and possibly a base of operations for some of its cells. And intercontinental security operations have found some operatives using fraudulently obtained South African travel documents to move around the globe.
In 2004, al-Qaeda operatives arrested in London were in possession of South African passports.
In 2006, the UN Security Council named two South Africans, Farhad Ahmed Dockrat from Erasmia near Pretoria, and Junaid Ismail Dockrat, a dentist from Mayfair, Joburg, as “international terror suspects”.
Both men have denied US claims that they had links with al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan.