Seriously, why would terrorists target South Africa?

The US and UK warnings about possible terrorist attacks in South Africa is a kind of terrorism in itself.

People wonder what’s so attractive about staying in Bloemfontein but if war ever broke out in the country, they’d wonder no more.

Even in the Boer War, Bloemfontein wasn’t a prize anybody wanted to claim. To the victor came the diamond spoils of Kimberley, the gold of the Transvaal and the railway station of a city built on a fountain. Bloem is so militarily undesirable that an invading army would probably get stuck just outside of Winburg because they didn’t want to stop in Bloem for fuel. Funny story – in the history of warfare, Bloem remains the only city ever surrendered on threat reported by journalists. Such is its lack of strategic value.

Well, South Africa is to the world, what Bloemfontein is to South Africa. No, that does not mean that South Africa is terrible. It just means that if you’re going to try do something to get attention for your cause, you’d do better choosing almost any other place on the globe.

Yet, the Americans and, more recently, the Brits seem to love issuing terrorist threats. Why? Only they know but the last significant terrorist attack was probably that of 2002 Soweto rail lines. Since then, and credit to them, the South African police and intelligence community have been doing a great job simmering potential threats. Anyway, it’s not like you could repeat that because the rail system is already destroying itself faster than any terrorist organisation could.

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Where the country hasn’t been doing so great is preventing murders, kidnappings, gas tank explosions and subjecting tourists who accidentally enter the wrong club to sokkie dancing to the latest Kurt Darren release. What would terrorists do that will have any impact beyond a normal week here?

An attack would have to kill more than 250 people just to push the murder rate up by 1%. Sure, that’s a scary thought but again, why would terrorists target South Africa? More importantly, why would they target foreign nationals in South Africa? Most of the post-1994 terrorist acts have been about domestic issues.

So, what are these foreign government warnings about? Better yet, how are they even helpful? Are they trying to tell us there might be some terrorism so we should stay vigilant and watch the local news? The entire state security apparatus of the King and that’s the best you can give us? No wonder nobody batted an eye when Benedict Cumberbatch was abducted in KwaZulu-Natal – and it’s not like any terrorist warnings would have been beneficial to him.

Yes, we live in a dangerous place and it’s dangerous for a variety of reasons but terrorism? C’mon. Surely you can think of better things to warn your people about? If you absolutely must send out a warning, maybe do it with the support of the local authorities and media that you’re advising your people to follow.

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Perhaps these foreign states have not felt the way of life of most South Africans: being vigilant, having street smarts or even our national weapon – aggression fuelled by brandy specials. Perhaps they want to err on the side of caution. This is not erring though. This is kind of terrorism in itself; vague warnings of something that might happen and all you are asked to do is what you should be doing anyway. It’s the toxic brother that has a habit of warning you about absolutely everything not because they care but because when one of the millions of things happen, they can say, “told you so”.

It’s not likely that much will come from these warnings but even if something bad did materialise, it’s not like these warnings are helpful.

Terrorism is an awful thing that we’ll always be at risk of, no matter where we are in the world. But you’d have to be a shockingly poor terrorist to target the Bloemfonteins of the world.

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