SANDF denies troop build-up

2013-04-03 12:25

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The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) denied reports suggesting it was massing troops in central Africa.

“The SANDF is not involved in any build-up of forces as reported,” spokesman Brigadier-General Xolani Mabanga said today.

This came as President Jacob Zuma and a South African international relations and security contingent attended an Economic Community of Central African States (Eccas) summit in Chad.

Thirteen SANDF soldiers died and 27 were wounded in fighting in the Central African Republic (CAR) on March 23 and 24.

Of the 27 South African soldiers wounded in the fighting, 10 remained in hospital, said Mabanga.

Beeld reported today that Gripen fighter planes, Oryx and Rooivalk helicopters, and three Russian freight carriers had been flying to Entebbe in Uganda, and to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Some left from Bloemfontein and others from Waterkloof Air Force base.

The newspaper reported South African troops were being deployed in Gemena in the DRC, 180km from the CAR capital Bangui.

The Times reported similar claims of regrouping in the DRC on its front page.

However, on inside pages, reporters in the CAR said military sources there stated claims of South African troops massing in Uganda and the DRC were “not credible”.

Another source told their reporters there were now only about 15 South African soldiers at the military base at Bangui airport, and this would be reduced to a handful of liaison officers in a few days.

Their source had also observed South African Hercules aircraft land and take off on Monday and Tuesday.

Commenting on reports in The Times that more South African soldiers would also be sent to the DRC, Mabanga said this was in line with a United Nations resolution for an intervention force there, following the deterioration of the security situation in the east of the DRC.

A number of meetings were held on the security situation there and the South African government had pledged to contribute forces from July, said Mabanga.

“We have not (yet), as SANDF, moved any troops or forces to effect that resolution or commitment,” he said.

The SANDF would wait for direction from government on whether to withdraw its forces from the CAR.

“We are waiting for instructions from the commander-in-chief and the head of the republic,” he said.

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