Cape Town-101022-Siyabonga Cwele, National Minister for State Security, flanked by Dennis Dlomo, his DDG, at a media briefing about the Protection of Information Bill. Picture Jeffrey Abrahams

Cape Town - South Africa will step up collaboration with other countries to fight terrorism and trans-national crime, State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele said on Tuesday.

Speaking during a budget vote debate in the National Assembly, Cwele said the threat of terrorism in Africa emerged as a significant trend in 2012.

“Global security remains stable but fragile due to pockets of conflicts in some regions of the world,” he said.

He referred to various conflicts which threatened security on the continent.

“In West Africa the destabilising activities of extremist or militant groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram in Nigeria, and the Tuareg Militia in Mali, attest to this.”

In North Africa the proliferation of small arms and availability of well-trained fighters had weakened regional security structures.

Cwele criticised the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab group, which had declared war on countries who formed part of the African Union Mission in Somalia.

Cwele said the main concern following another coup in the Central African Republic this year was the humanitarian crisis which emerged from the fighting.

“The primary objective is to urgently restore security in order to allow inflows of humanitarian assistance and economic reconstruction.”

On the home front, Cwele announced an early warning system was in place to alert law enforcement officials to potentially violent protests.

Cwele blamed “socio-economic factors and the global economic slowdown” for security risks, which included violent service delivery protests.

While the Constitution guaranteed South Africans' rights to gather, picket, and protest, violence should never form part of such actions.

“Let us be upfront and loudly state that in terms of our laws, it is a crime to incite or participate in acts of violence during protests,” he said.

Organisers of and participants in violent demonstrations would face the consequences.

“We now have a plan and are ready deploy the full capacity of the democratic state to identify, prevent or arrest, and swiftly prosecute those who undermine our Bill of Rights by engaging in acts of violence,” said Cwele.

Security agencies were working together to deal with this.

“Intelligence structures have implemented specific measure to provide early warning to law enforcement agencies and relevant departments on planned protests that have a potential of turning violent.”

According to Cwele, the factors leading to violent protests would also come under scrutiny.

“The assessments will also focus on the underlying root causes in order to advise on speedy and integrated response to grievances.”

There had been a steep increase in service delivery and wage-related protests over the past few years.

The state had been criticised for its response to these, most notably after police shot dead 34 miners during a strike at Marikana in the North West on August 16. - Sapa