Did Zuma overrule army chiefs on CAR?

2013-03-27 16:41
Lindiwe Mazibuko (Picture: Sapa)

Lindiwe Mazibuko (Picture: Sapa)

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Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma must tell MPs why SA National Defence Force soldiers were deployed in the Central African Republic, DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said on Wednesday.

"I have written to President Jacob Zuma to request that he calls both houses of Parliament to a joint sitting as a matter of urgency, so that he can provide a detailed briefing on the events currently unfolding in the CAR," she said in a statement.

A key question was why South African soldiers needed to lose their lives to defend the now ousted CAR president, Francois Bozize.

"The fact that 13 soldiers were killed and 27 were wounded in what was described as a 'high tempo, high intensity battle' in the CAR, is reason enough for the president to brief the members of both houses of Parliament," Mazibuko said.

It was particularly worrying that the troops were deployed in the CAR in the first place.

Bozize had come to power through a military coup a decade ago. His cabinet was filled by close family members, and his leadership was plagued by corruption, nepotism and authoritarianism.

Further, his security forces stood accused of torture and stifling free speech.

"The CAR remains one of the most corrupt states in the world, with one of the lowest ratings for good governance.

"The key question that needs to be asked is: why did South Africa need to lose lives to defend this president?"

It appeared the decision to deploy troops was linked more to Zuma's own close relationship with Bozize, than the best interests of South Africa, or the continent.

Zuma also needed to make clear whether he authorised the deployment of troops in that country, against the advice of Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and her military chiefs.

"[And] why the defence force was deployed in the middle of what amounted to a civil war, with so little military support [there were no helicopter gunships to provide air support... or transport aircraft to evacuate SANDF soldiers from the CAR]."

Mazibuko said Zuma should also provide details of the exact circumstances in which 13 SANDF members were killed.

"It is unacceptable that elected members of Parliament are left to speculate about what happened in the CAR, or what action will be taken by the SANDF in the near future.

"As commander-in-chief of the SA National Defence Force, it is essential that President Zuma shows leadership and urgently briefs Parliament on all of these critical details," Mazibuko said.

- SAPA
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