ANC welcomes CAR troop withdrawal

By Drum Digital
04 April 2013

The African National Congress on Thursday welcomed government's decision to withdraw South African soldiers from the Central African Republic (CAR).

"The tragedy that befell our troops in the CAR must be understood to have been an act of deliberate and unwarranted aggression, and an attempt to [overrun] our base by the Seleka rebels that regrettably led to loss of lives on both sides," ANC international relations spokesman Obed Bapela said.

"We commend the government for having been resolute in implementing the foreign policy of our country, based on what the Freedom Charter directs us, as well as implementing the collective decisions of the... [ECCAS] and African Union (AU)."

Bapela, also deputy minister for performance monitoring, said the decision was in line with the resolution taken by the recent extraordinary summit of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) that upheld a decision by the AU not to recognise the self-imposed government.

Thirteen South African soldiers were killed and 27 wounded on March 23 when they were attacked by Seleka rebel fighters near the CAR's capital Bangui.

CAR president Francois Bozize was ousted by the rebels.

Bapela said the ANC applauded the decision of the summit that a transitional committee be established to run the CAR and prepare for democratic elections in 18 months.

The Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans' Association said South Africans and political parties should appreciate and understand that military matters had far-reaching implications for national security, and "leakages on security matters" compromised the security forces.

"Matters of national security ought to be handled with the necessary sensitivity and caution. That is not unique for South Africa. It is indeed universal practice across the world," MKMVA secretary Thandi Mashoale said in a statement.

"We therefore dare not turn corpses of our fallen heroes into political football for point scoring, as seems to be the case with some political parties and media."

Meanwhile, the African Christian Democratic Party and the United Democratic Movement called for a commission of inquiry to be established to determine why South African troops were sent to the CAR.

ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe said the South African public and the families of the soldiers who died had the right to know the truth about the deployment.

"This follows further allegations that South African troops were protecting assets of politically-linked businessmen in the CAR, who own mineral rights in the mineral-rich country," he said in a statement.

"Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has confirmed that the troops were there to 'protect South African assets'. It is scandalous that SA troops were deployed and lost their lives under these conditions."

He said it was important to establish if the troops were there to protect the assets of "politically-linked businessmen" as opposed to the mission of capacity building of the CAR defence force.

Earlier, UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said there had been many contradicting statements from government on the reason for deploying troops in the CAR, and the inquiry would also help verify whether any training took place in the past two years.

"South Africans want to know which national assets our troops were risked to protect," he said.

"There is also the possibility that government may be sued by the families of those soldiers who lost their lives. It can't be business as usual if we are to avoid a similar catastrophe."

The Democratic Alliance also welcomed the withdrawal of South African troops from the CAR.

"The presidency should urgently brief the country on the full details of this withdrawal," DA leader Helen Zille said.

-by Sapa

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