South Africa: Shopping Malls Up Security Following U.S. Embassy Terror Alert

After the U.S. embassy issued a terror alert to citizens living in – or traveling to – South Africa, five major malls in Johannesburg and Cape Town have stepped up their security. In the meanwhile, the Australian and British governments have reportedly revised their travel warnings to their citizens.

The Inquisitr reported Sunday that the U.S. embassy in Pretoria had issued the terror attack warning, saying it had “received information that terrorist groups are planning to carry out near-term attacks against places where U.S. citizens congregate in South Africa, such as upscale shopping areas and malls in Johannesburg and Cape Town.”

“This information comes against the backdrop of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s public call for its adherents to carry out terrorist attacks globally during the upcoming month of Ramadan.”

On Monday, State Security Minister David Mahlobo downplayed the U.S. government’s terror alert, offering assurances his department is doing all it can to keep South Africa safe from terror attacks.

As reported by the Independent Online, Mahlobo said it was part of the United States government’s “standard precautionary recommendation to its residents.”

“We remain a strong and stable democratic country and there is no immediate danger posed by the alert.”

However, in the wake of the warning, JHI Retail, the corporate group representing several major malls, announced in a statement Monday that they had beefed up their security after U.S., British, and Australian embassies in South Africa put the country on terror attack alert.

CEO Nomzamo Radebe said the group had “taken note” of the terror warning.

“All five shopping centers in the Liberty Property Portfolio – Sandton City, Nelson Mandela Square, Eastgate, Liberty Midlands Mall and Liberty Promenade – are on high alert and additional security measures have been implemented in line with the Liberty Group policy. We are also working closely with SAPS.”

Mall security upped after terror alert.
[Image via Flickr by Sea Turtle/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Carla White, spokesperson for the popular V&A Waterfront shopping and entertainment complex in Cape Town had said earlier their security teams meet regularly and are co-operating with the South African Police Service (SAPS) and with regional and national intelligence following the terror alert.

“In response to the notification of this threat, SAPS has increased their presence and vigilance at the V&A Waterfront, and similarly we have also implemented actions accordingly,” White added.

The manager for Mall of Africa told News 24 the newly-built shopping center is fully aware of the terror warning and has taken steps to increase their security.

“We have a security company on board and additional steps have been taken to ensure safety. We are also reliant on our relationship with the police and are keeping those channels opened.”

[Image via Flickr by Jochem Koole/CC by 2.0]

Since then, both the British and Australian embassies have reportedly revised their travel alert to South Africa.

Isabel Potgieter from the British embassy said they issued a terror alert on May 20 and revised it over the weekend, following the U.S. terror warning, stating they are not currently advising their citizens against travel to South Africa.

The Australian government, speaking of the U.S. terror alert, said in a statement, “The warning notes that ‘the government has received information that terrorist groups are planning to carry out near-term attacks against places where US citizens congregate in South Africa, such as upscale shopping areas and malls in Johannesburg and Cape Town’.”

While they didn’t say Australian citizens should avoid travel to South Africa, they did tell Australians to be “particularly vigilant in areas frequented by foreigners at this time.”

“The level of this advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in South Africa.”

The South African Department of Home Affairs told South Africans not to panic following the travel warnings. Spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete said such terror warnings were precautions “taken by countries to protect their citizens, it is not for us to panic.”

“Whatever they are warning their citizens about, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is going to happen or it is a fact. Ebola is an example of something that [we were warned about] but never happened on our shores,” Tshwete said.

[Photo V&A Waterfront via Flickr by Slack12, cropped and resized CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]