Document shows SANDF protected Bozize

2013-04-04 20:35
SANDF (File: AFP)

SANDF (File: AFP)

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Cape Town - The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) was deployed to the Central African Republic (CAR) to protect the country’s president, Francois Bozize.

Allegations that the SANDF was in the CAR to act as VIP bodyguards to Bozize has been denied during the past few weeks.

A Beeld investigation has found that an elite squad of the SANDF's special forces has been in the CAR since 2007 acting as bodyguards for Bozize.

President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday during a speech delivered to the memorial service for 13 soldiers that died in the Battle of Bangui, said South Africa's deployment to the CAR was in line with a memorandum of understanding that the two countries signed in 2007.

Zuma said there has been a "a deliberate attempt to cast doubt and distort the purpose of Operation Vimbezela, our mission in CAR".

"In February 2007, South Africa signed the defence co-operation memorandum of understanding with the CAR [Operation Vimbezela].

"The aim of this operation was for South Africa to assist in the training of the CAR army," Zuma said on Tuesday.

There was no mention of the second operation the SANDF was doing in CAR called operation Morero.

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, minister of international relations and co-operation, in an official answer to a parliamentary question back in 2011, described the deployment to the CAR as follows:

"The SANDF deployment in the CAR is divided into two mainly Op Morero - a unit of the SANDF special forces that was deployed in CAR to provide VIP protection to President Bozize and Operation Vimbesela," Nkoana-Mashabane said.

On Wednesday Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga, spokesperson for the SANDF said he cannot comment on operation Morero.

Mabanga was asked if he could confirm or deny the existence of the operation.

"I’m afraid I cannot comment," Mabanga said.

Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj, on Wednesday said the presidents statements on Tuesday was "very clear".

He referred the issue about operation Morero to the department of international relations and co-operation.

Beeld has also received a copy of the original 2007 MOU that was signed between the CAR and South African governments.

Amongst others, the contract also provides for the "encouragement and facilitation of industrial co-operation between the respective industries in the field of defence related matters" between the two countries.

David Maynier DA MP, says the "secret" memorandum of understanding clearly shows that "we have not been told the whole truth about the deployment of the SANDF in the CAR.

"This is the first clear evidence that the scope of the defence agreement went way beyond training and included "industrial cooperation",  in at least the defence sector.

"This reinforces the view that business interests may have been served by the deployment of the SANDF in the CAR."

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