SA logistics operator in Moz ‘guilty’ by suspicion

Francis Hanekom with her husband, Andre – guilty until proven innocent?

In what seems to be a case of “guilty until proven innocent” the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) has defended its stance not to get involved in the terrorism charges a South African logistics businessman is facing in Mozambique.

This is in spite of contrary information supporting notions that Andre Hanekom’s human rights are being violated for the sake of multi-national corporate interests.

Hanekom, who is in his 60s, was arrested in December on charges of aiding and abetting Islamic militants operating in the north western extremity of Mozambique where he’s awaiting charges related to providing logistical services for terror group Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama.

Thus far it’s not known specifically when he will appear in court with various reports only saying that it's “soon”.

Speaking to FTW Online, Dirco spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya said: “We will not know when exactly he’s supposed to appear in court in Mozambique because we cannot interfere in that country’s judicial system.”

He added that any enquiries as to the welfare, whereabouts and possible court date of Hanekom should be directed to South Africa’s High Commissioner in Maputo, Mandisi Mpahlwa, “who is closely following the case of Mr Hanekom in Mozambique”.

Asked for contact details of the commissioner, Mabaya said “it won’t help you to phone him as the commissioner is not allowed to talk to the media. He’ll just refer you back to me”.

In the meantime South Africa’s International Relations and Co-operation Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, also appears to be campaigning for public sentiment against Hanekom.

She has been quoted saying “we have asked law enforcement agencies to look deeper into the matter. South Africans must spread peace and also be agents of economic development and political stability wherever they go.”

Mabaya was scant, if not secretive, about how Dirco is assisting Hanekom.

He merely said “we have all the information that we need and are co-operating with the government of Mozambique.”

In the meantime Hanekom’s wife has been asking probing questions about the sinister conditions surrounding her husband’s recent ordeals.

Last August he was shot in the arm and stomach, hospitalised, and subsequently detained on suspicion of colluding with destabilising interests in the province of Cabo Delgado where the Hanekoms have been living since he first started working there almost 30 years ago.

His initial detention was overturned in a court in October when it was ruled that there was no real reason for terrorism charges brought against him.

Now, since late December, Hanekom is again finding himself in the crosshairs of Mozambique’s efforts to fight terrorism around the coastal town of Palma where, interestingly enough, he built a slipway that grants access to the deep water bay and its vast deposits of liquid natural gas (LNG), an alternative fuel source for the shipping industry.

Francis Hanekom has told various media that it’s perplexing why it took police three months to raid their home following first suspicions of her husband’s involvement in aiding terrorists.

It’s furthermore puzzling why the boat flares (mainly used by skippers when in distress) and machetes (used to clear dense bush) that police found would necessarily be considered to be weapons of terror since these are common items around Palma, known for its tropical jungle and fishing adventures.

The bow and arrow that was also confiscated by police, described as a “curio item”, is also hardly the kind of item one would use to start an insurrection.

All considered, much points to Hanekom being neutralised because of his business interests, particularly the slipway that he won’t sell despite various propositions from high-profile LNG concerns.

Neil Summer and Francisco Soares, former business partners of Palma Marine, the logistics company that Hanekom runs, have also gone to ground since his most recent arrest.

Asked why Dirco isn’t helping Hanekom despite clear indications that his human rights are being violated, Mabaya said “your information is wrong. Mr Hanekom has been arrested three times on suspicion of assisting terror activities in Mozambique.”

And according to Sisulu it’s upsetting that South African citizens are “involved in crimes and activities that seek to destabilise democratically elected states”.

Her comments were made despite Hanekom languishing in jail without any certainty of when, exactly, he will appear on charges of terrorism.

-Eugene Goddard

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