A group linked to the hacktivist collective Anonymous claims to have taken down the websites of media outlets and political parties in South Africa earlier this week.

The collective‚ dubbed Anonymous Africa, claimed to have taken down the website of South African public broadcaster SABC, whose websites were offline for hours. The whole thing started with a simple poll, asking if the SABC deserved Anonymous Africa's attention, which received an overwhelming yes.

They claimed responsibility for the attack, linking it to 'psychological manipulation' that the broadcaster was engaged in. The SABC said it was investigating the matter.

The collective then threatened to take down the websites belonging to two political parties, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) linked to Julius Malema, and Zimbabwe’s ZANU-PF.

The hacktivist group said it was attacking the EFF website for the party's alleged racism. Following these threats, the EFF website experienced several hours of downtime on Tuesday.

This isn't the first time that a group linked to Anonymous has targeted South Africa. Earlier in the year, World Hacker Team, another group linked to Anonymous, reported that it had hacked the SA Department of Water Affairs website. The attack and subsequent leak of sensitive data online was part of Operation Africa (#OpAfrica), an attack by Anonymous on "corporations and governments that enable and perpetuate corruption on the African continent".

The websites of The New Age newspaper and news channel ANN7, as well as those of Sahara and Oakbay Investments were also taken offline this week. All these entities are linked to the wealthy Gupta family, whose controversial close relationship with South African president Jacob Zuma has drawn plenty of criticism.

In their own words, Anonymous Africa uses their technical knowledge to disrupt telecommunication as a form of protest against groups and individuals that they claim to be corrupt or racist.

We reached out to the group via email, and this is what they had to say about their recent attacks.

iAfrikan: What is your connection to the main Anonymous group?
Anonymous Africa: All our groups start with the letter, "a". The very nature of anonymous is that anyone can call themselves anonymous.

What is the motivation behind these attacks?

Anonymous Africa: To be a voice for the voiceless, to respond to unanswered corruption, racism or other such abuses.

Why are you targeting political parties? You have stated that you'll target entities linked to ZANU-PF, ANC and EFF.

Anonymous Africa: We have always targeted political parties. Only corrupt or racist ones though

Why target the SABC?

Anonymous Africa: For censorship and abuse of the SABC to push the corrupt ANC agenda and protect the corrupt Zuma.

You're based in Southern Africa, and your attacks so far are on South African targets. Who else are you looking at in Africa?

Anonymous Africa: Anywhere in Southern Africa is fair game. That is our operational center

While online attacks may have some impact, it seems your impact is limited to the websites of the agencies and parties you're targeting. What other strategies are you looking to employ going forward?

Anonymous Africa: We are a protest group, we know of other groups that have invited us to intrude on other networks but we prefer just doing flash mob style protests at the door of the property. We wish the other groups the best of luck, but our protests are not to cause permanent damage.

The hit-and-run tactics that Anonymous Africa have deployed certainly caught the attention of the authorities, given the high profile of the websites that were taken down. They have exposed the cracks that exist that allow these attacks to happen, and as a result, they have brought the crucial issue of cyber-security and cyber-activism to the fore. The fact that they can be used to make a point like this raises questions over the level of security on other websites.

This time, the attackers were more interested in making a statement, posting a log of their activities and leaving the data behind these websites intact. Next time, the targets may not be so lucky.

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