SA soldiers not deployed for battle

2013-04-04 17:27
SANDF (File: AFP)

SANDF (File: AFP)

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Johannesburg - South African soldiers deployed in the Central African Republic were not there to wage battle, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said on Thursday.

"We must emphasise that, despite having being forced to defend themselves after being attacked, our soldiers we never deployed to [the] CAR to wage battle," Mapisa-Nqakula told Parliament's joint standing committee on defence.

"They had gone to the CAR to assist with the post-conflict recovery of that country, knowing that through their work, the people of that country will know peace and stability.

"Their efforts would ensure that fellow human beings, including future generations of African children, will live in conditions of peace, no longer victims of conflicts of greed for power."

Mapisa-Nqakula conceded that the deaths of 13 South African soldiers in the CAR had raised questions government should respond to.

"Let me assure all our people that, for us as a democratic government, it is absolutely essential that every South African should be allowed the space to demand accountability; and that government should provide answers that ensure such accountability."

However, government was concerned about unsubstantiated rumours that could jeopardise the security of many soldiers still deployed outside South African borders.

Mapisa-Nqakula said at an African Union meeting on 7 December, the peace and security council examined reports of its missions to the CAR.

It adopted decisions, among others, demanding the CAR rebel movements renounce violence and pursue peaceful dialogue.

The AU decisions also directed that member states should provide support for the socio-economic recovery and consolidation of peace and stability in the CAR. Measures proposed included assistance to the defence and security sector, she said.

Mapisa-Nqakula told the committee South Africa and the CAR had signed a defence memorandum of understanding in 2007.

This entailed helping the CAR build capacity in its army. This included training, VIP protection, training group leaders, specialists and infantry, refurbishment of bases and barracks, and providing equipment (camping equipment, training ammunition, uniforms, and vehicles).

"For the AU and South Africa, these developments created conducive conditions for the post-conflict recovery of the CAR."

Mapisa-Nqakula said when the situation in the CAR deteriorated earlier in this year, government made an assessment and deployed 200 more soldiers to the country.

"This was very important because a contingent of unarmed SANDF trainers and South African government assets were in the CAR.

It was also important to ensure that South African military assets in the CAR do not fall into the wrong hands."

Additional soldiers were not trainers and therefore were not deployed to train, but as a protection force for South African personnel and equipment.

Mapisa-Nqakula said her department was aware of media reports which said many of the soldiers interviewed had indicated they had not trained the CAR army.

"Training was not the mandate of the protection force, but that of the smaller group they were deployed to protect," she said.

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