South Africa summons U.S officials to explain terror alert

Tony Ekata, Pretoria

The South African government has summoned the U.S ambassador to explain the issuing of a terror alert.

In a strong show of diplomatic displeasure, the government summoned the ambassador to the International Relations Department, to explain the circumstances surrounding the issuing of the alert.

The department, together with the State Security Agency (SSA), released a joint statement in which it accused the Americans of trying to undermine South Africa’s counter-terrorism efforts.

The department’s Clayson Monyela says the U.S embassy’s source lacked credibility.

“Alerts of that nature have the unintended consequences of causing panic and we have a responsibility to ensure that the information that we rely on, at the very least, has to be credible,” Clayson said. 
He insists South Africa has good relations with America.
“We’ve taken the action to call in the US embassy to come and discuss this matter further so that we compare notes, but also express our displeasure in the manner in which this was handled so that going forward we avoid it.” 
The British and Australian embassies which issued similar warnings have also been called to a meeting at the International Relations Department.

‘SA will issue threat alerts’
The government has made it clear to embassies based in the country that it is the South African government that will issue threat alerts to the public.

“We reject attempts to generate perceptions of government ineptitude, alarmist impressions and public hysteria on the basis of a questionable single source,” said the department’s spokesperson.
Monyela says government is fully capable of protecting its citizens and foreigners in the country.

“We expect foreign embassies on our soil to follow the correct channels when communicating matters of such nature. Should the need arise, the South African government would be the first to inform the public about any imminent threat.” 

‘No known militant groups operate in SA’
Security officials say no known militant groups operate in South Africa, which has seldom been associated with Islamist militancy.

No change to status
The US embassy in Pretoria has however responded in a statement affirming that there is no change to the status of the threat warning it issued.

The embassy said the message issued was based on specific, credible and non-counterable information.

Last Saturday, the United States warned its citizens of possible attacks by Islamist militants on U.S facilities or shopping malls in South Africa during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Reuters/Monitored reports