Foreign Service Posts Mark #16DaysOfActivism #EndGBV

 

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Security Message on Terrorist Threat to U.S. Interests in South Africa

Posted: 1:08 pm EDT
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

The U.S. Embassy in Pretoria issued a security message today alerting American citizens of a terrorist threat to United States interests in South Africa. Note that the message provides the contact information for the U.S. Consulates General in Johannesburg, Cape Town, or Durban for American citizens requiring assistance.  The U.S. Embassy in Pretoria does not have a consular section and does not provide consular services.  The U.S. Mission to South Africa is currently headed by Ambassador Patrick Gaspard, a political appointee who previously served as the Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee.

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The US Mission in South Africa is the second largest in the Bureau of African Affairs in total staff, and the third largest in terms of Department staffing, behind Nigeria and Kenya. With consulates general in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban, it is apparently, the only mission in Africa with three constituent posts. Twenty-eight offices from 12 independent agencies maintain a presence at the mission, the largest being the Department, USAID, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The 2011 OIG report recommended that USCG Durban “be significantly downsized or closed.”

Diplomatic Security’s 2015 Crime and Safety Report rates South Africa as “critical” in crime and “medium” in terrorism:

South Africa serves as an important transit and facilitation point for global extremists. Though there has been no indication that operational cells are present, a nexus for recruiting, funding, and safe haven for international terrorists does exist.

The last significant domestic terror campaign occurred in the Western Cape. The Western Cape-based group “People against Gangsters and Drugs” (PAGAD) conducted an urban terror campaign of bombings, assassinations, and vigilante murders from 1997 to November 2001. These activities targeted government facilities and personnel, moderate Muslims identified as threats to the radical Islamic movement, and Western-themed businesses (Planet Hollywood, Hooters, and Hard Rock Cafe) seen by PAGAD as symbols of the anti-Islamic West. The successful investigation and subsequent prosecution of PAGAD members by the government was credited with the suspension of further violence. No significant anti-Western attacks have occurred since 2001.

The smallest post in the mission is USCG Durban. It is located in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province, home to sub-Saharan Africa’s largest container port (Durban) and commodity port (Richards Bay), making the province one of the prime commercial centers on the continent. According to the latest crime/safety report, KZN is also a frequent host to ANC political rallies and large gatherings that sometimes disrupt the city. Most protests, marches, and rallies pass in front of the building housing the U.S. Consulate General and end across the street in front of Durban’s City Hall, preventing Consulate staff and visitors from accessing or departing from the building.

The report also notes that while the SA police forces are well intentioned, they have limited effectiveness due to a lack of equipment, resources, training, and personnel to respond to calls for assistance or other emergencies.

As an side, this is one more example where post’s social media arms are not integrated into a whole-mission approach. Its Facebook page features a job vacancy and “20 years after the Beijing Declaration.”  On Twitter, @USEmbassySA makes no mention of the security message and has the following instead:
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We’re going to boldly bet that the social media platforms are run by Public Affairs and the security message is run by the Consular Section. And they have not bumped into each other yet.

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US Embassy Accra Employee Falls to Death on South Africa’s Table Mountain

— Domani Spero

Updated on 12/20/13 – see State Dept Regional Psychiatrist William Callahan, 53, Dies in Cape Town

South Africa’s Independent Online reported on December 13 that an American diplomat fell to his death while hiking on the Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa.  The Wilderness Search and Rescue spokesman told the reporter that “It appears that the man fell to his death on a rocky slope called Porcupine buttress. The area is known to be dangerous and another hiker nearly died during a fall there last year.” Excerpt:

Five volunteer teams from Wilderness Search and Rescue searched through the night. Then, shortly after 6am on Friday morning, the 53-year-old man’s body was spotted by an Emergency Medical Services helicopter. Two paramedics were lowered from the helicopter to the body. The man was declared dead at the scene.

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Police have identified the victim. However, the American Embassy’s spokesman, Jack Hillmeyer, asked the Cape Argus not to publish the name because they had not received official confirmation and his next of kin had not yet been notified.

Read the report here.

Table Mountain from Capt. Cook's ship HMS Resolution by William Hodges (1772) Via Wikipedia

Table Mountain from Capt. Cook’s ship HMS Resolution by William Hodges (1772) Via Wikipedia

Will Stevens, the Spokesperson for the Bureau of African Affairs confirmed the death of a U.S. citizen visiting South Africa on December 12.  We cannot confirm if the individual was a diplomat, only that he/she was an employee of the U.S. Embassy Accra in Ghana  who died in South Africa.  Below is the full statement from Mr. Stevens:

“I can confirm the death of a U.S. citizen visiting South Africa on December 12.   We are saddened by the death of this Embassy Accra employee, and offer our condolences to the individual’s family and loved ones on their loss.  Out of respect for the privacy of those affected, I have no further comment.”

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