Statements by deputy minister of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), Luwellyn Landers, suggested that Boko Haram splinter groups may be operating in the country have caused controversy. The minister’s made the remarks this week, saying South Africans would never know whether the person sitting next to them was a member of the rebel group.
The Afro-Middle East Centre (AMEC) director Naeem Jeenah called Landers comments unacceptable, especially for someone occupying the type position that he did within the ruling party. Taking into context that Islamaphobia was becoming a widespread issue in the country, Jeenah said the statements were extremely irresponsible.
“He should actually be taking the line of firstly, finding out what the facts of the matter are before shooting his mouth of in that kind of way. Secondly, trying to calm a situation that can easily erupt, rather than creating it himself,” he said.
Jeenah said there was no clear evidence to back up the deputy-ministers statements, suggesting they were based on “complete ignorance and speculation”. He said Landers had done little to calm a nation already grappling with shocking levels of xenophobia.
“I have to confess I was also quite shocked when I read about it, and I’m actually surprised that up to now, 24 hours after the comments were made, that we haven’t had any angry statements or calls for a meeting from our Muslim organisations,” he said.
Jeenah rejected the notion that those within the department who dealt with West Africa, were ignorant on Boko Haram and the threat they posed. He raised doubt over whether the deputy minister had actually consulted people within his own department, to find out what the true situation was.
“Ministers and deputy ministers have a higher responsibility towards society, South Africa as a country and its people, and these kinds of statements don’t reflect an understanding of that responsibility. I think it is very unfortunate,” he said.
Al-Jama’ah party president Ganief Hendricks said they were eagerly awaiting the National Executive Committee of the ANC to take action against Landers. He said the deputy minister was not fit to hold such a high position within government.
“For him to paint Islam and the Muslim community in South Africa in such a negative light, by association with a group the media and himself calls Islamic extremists, in the holy month of Ramadan, is designed to deflect the atrocities against Palestinians by Israel in the early days of Ramadan,” Hendricks said in a statement.
Hendricks said there was no place in the Muslim community in South Africa, for a group that inflicted harm upon woman and children, all whilst purporting to be Muslim.
In the meantime, the party hopes that Landers will be banned from making any media statements for the rest of Ramadan.
“He has certainly spoilt our Ramadan,” he said. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)