Our only interest in CAR was training – minister

2013-03-28 16:51

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says the government had no interest in the Central African Republic, other than to train that country’s soldiers.

Her denial follows reports that the soldiers were deployed to protect the business interests of individuals with close ties to the ANC.

She told the relatives of the 13 soldiers who had died in CAR at the Waterkloof Airforce base that their dead relatives were “heroes” and “lions” who had died valiantly.

She said the army had been deployed to train the CAR army and to protect that country’s sovereignty.

“I am raising that because people are raising (questions) about what business interests (there were) and others are saying the minister and the president differed about the deployment.

“There’s no truth to that,” she said.

Mapisa-Nqakula said the country took responsibility for the dead soldiers.

“We can’t pass the buck now because there is a death. As a country we take responsibility for that. Not that we regret sending them to CAR,” she said.

Earlier, the families and hearses had received the coffins containing the remains of the 13 soldiers in a ceremony held outside the airport’s hangars.

She urged the families to cherish proud memories of what the soldiers had done, saying they had not died retreating.

“What I know is that they were happy to be deployed in CAR. Any soldier who has been deployed wants to know how to be combat-ready,” she said.

Mapisa-Nqakula urged the families not to allow people to continue saying the soldiers were sold out or that they were sent to their death.

“In all humility, without even a strip of arrogance, it’s my responsibility as the minister of defence and a mother (to say) let us not allow our enemy to split us over the deployment of our children,” she said.

A representative of the SA National Defence Force told the media that it was up to he families to decide whether the dead should be given private, semi-military or full military burials.

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