Zuma to attend service for slain soldiers

2013-04-02 07:27
SANDF (File)

SANDF (File)

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Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma is expected to attend a memorial service on Tuesday for the 13 SANDF soldiers killed in the Central African Republic, amid reports that South Africa's mission to the country has been sized down.

The defence force was expected to hold a second memorial service at 11:00 at the Thaba Tshwane City Hall. The service Zuma was scheduled to attend would take place at the Swartkop Air Force Base, also at 11:00.

The soldiers were killed on Saturday 23 March during a clash with Seleka rebel forces at the SANDF base outside Bangui. Twenty-seven others were wounded.

Two days after the attack Zuma said about 200 South African soldiers fought off about 1 000 rebels. The SANDF was in the CAR as part of a military co-operation agreement signed in 2007. The SANDF was tasked with building the capacity of the CAR's army and helping the country plan and implement a process to disarm, demobilise and reintegrate rebel forces into the CAR's defence force.

Rebels however accused President Francois Bozize of failing to fulfil promises he made, the Associated Press reported. They demanded he send home the South African troops.

Bozize fled the CAR on Sunday 24 March, before rebels overran the city and seized the presidential palace.

SA mission being sized down

The Daily Maverick reported on Tuesday that South Africa's controversial mission to the country has been sized down, with only 18 soldiers out of more than 200 remaining.

The head of the regional peacekeeping force Fomac, General Jean Felix Akanga, confirmed to The Wall Street Journal that just a handful of South African soldiers were still in Bangui. Sources also confirmed that a number of large chartered cargo planes took off from and landed at Waterkloof Air Force Base over the weekend.

However, the SANDF has refused to confirm to the Daily Maverick whether a withdrawal has taken place, saying it is still awaiting instructions from the government on whether to withdraw or reinforce.

The 13 SANDF soldiers who were killed were named as Corporals Mokgadi Darius Seakamela and Ntebaleng Andrew Mogorosi, and Lance Corporals Daniel Sello Molara and Lukas Mohapi Tsheke.

The riflemen killed were: Lesego Maxwell Hertzog, Zamani Jim Mxhosana, Xolani Dlamini, Vusumzi Joseph Ngaleka, Karabo Edwin Matsheka, Khomotso Paul Msenga, Maleisane Samuel Thulo, Motsamai William Bojane, and Thabiso Anthon Phirimana.

All were members of One Parachute Battalion, from Bloemfontein.

The Sunday Times quoted unnamed South African soldiers saying that children were among the attackers.

"It was only after the firing stopped that we saw we had killed kids. We did not come here for this... to kill kids. It makes you sick. They were crying, calling for help... calling for [their] moms."

Read more on:    sandf  |  jacob zuma  |  car  |  car uprisings

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