Cape Town - A United Nations Security Council resolution unanimously adopted this week, which aims to curb foreigners joining extremist militants in countries such as Syria and Iraq, is in line with existing South African legislation, according to the Department of International Relations.
The resolution says all countries must prevent the movement of terrorists or terrorist groups “by effective border controls and controls on issuance of identity papers and travel documents”.
It urges states to use “evidence-based traveller risk assessment and screening procedures” such as the collection and analysis of travel data to red-flag possible terrorist recruits.
It also calls on states to clamp down on the recruitment of potential terrorists at home.
Earlier this month CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani told the BBC that the army of the self-styled Islamic State (IS) could be as many as 31 000 fighters, three times the size of previous estimates.
IS, the radical militant group formerly known as Isis, has conquered swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq, where it has proclaimed a caliphate.
Department spokesman Nelson Kgwete said the UN resolution was in line with South Africa’s own Prohibition of Mercenary Activities and Regulation of Certain Activities in Country of Armed Conflict Act of 2006. The act, which is little used, prohibits South African citizens from providing military assistance or services in a country where armed conflict is taking place.
It states that no person may, within South Africa or abroad “directly or indirectly participate in any manner in the initiation, causing or furthering of an armed conflict or a coup d’état, uprising or rebellion against any government”.
Speaking before the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, US President Barack Obama said IS had to be “degraded and ultimately destroyed”. “There can be no reasoning… with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force.
“So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.”
Counter-terrorism analyst Richard Barrett, of the Soufan group, a US-based security consultancy, said only one South African had been red-flagged as a possible IS recruit.
The Soufan group estimated in a June report that 12 000 foreign fighters from 81 countries had gone to Syria in the past three years, saying the Middle Eastern country had become an “incubator for a new generation of terrorists”.
Particularly worrying were fighters who had gone to join radical militant groups and then returned to their home countries.
South Africa, however, in stark contrast to countries such as France, the Netherlands and Russia from which hundreds of alleged terror recruits have travelled, was not mentioned in the report.
Barrett said the only link between IS and South Africa remained a man claiming to be from South Africa in an IS propaganda video.
And even the true nationality of this man, known only as Abu Shuiab al-Afriki, has been called into question because of his accent. Barrett, however, thinks it likely that the man is South African.
Numerous South African Islamic organisations have strongly criticised IS.
The Muslim Judicial Council has “unequivocally condemned” the group for “mass murder and destruction committed against innocent civilians and religious minorities…”
The Jamiatul Ulama of SA, a council of Muslim theologians, said the group was founded on “atrocities, massacres and extra-judicial punishments”.
This month demonstrators took part in a silent protest outside Claremont Main Road Mosque, waving signs such as “We Stand Against Isis” and “Not in Our Name”.