“What they found on him you will find on any farm in the area. There is no indication of any intentional involvement in any of the Al-Shabaab groups,” said Jasmine Opperman, director at Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium.
“Was he involved with the wrong people that he wasn’t aware of? It could have happened. It is a likelihood we can’t ignore.”
Opperman said Hanekom would have nothing to gain from trying to destabilise the region and, as a businessperson, it would be more likely he would be searching for stability.
“There is a sense the government is trying to pinpoint the instability now for a quick gain. Now, we have a person who has been living there for 30 years and it seems like he has become a target of this agenda,” Opperman said, adding it was something she could not prove.
Opperman said Hanekom “simply” didn’t fit the profile of a hardened terrorist seeking to overthrow a government.
Hanekom was named by prosecutors as one of the leaders of a jihadist group operating in the country’s gas-rich north. For more than a year, Mozambique has been rocked by an Islamist insurgency in the northern coastal province of Cabo Delgado.
But Hanekom’s wife Francis dismissed the allegations against him, insisting he had “nothing to do” with any jihadist groups.
“It is nonsense,” she said, saying charges against him had been trumped up by the authorities. “He is not interested in politics.”
Court papers named Hanekom as one of five leaders of a group which had carried out several attacks, in which he was allegedly responsible for logistics, along with the payment of monthly salaries and the provision of medicines.