Don't twist CAR deployment - minister

2013-04-23 22:27
Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula (Picture: AFP)

Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula (Picture: AFP)

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Cape Town - Opposition parties were accused on Tuesday of seeking to score political points from the death of South African soldiers in the Central African Republic (CAR).

"This is done without any iota of shame and kindness," Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told the National Assembly in Cape Town.

She again insisted there was nothing untoward about the deployment of soldiers in the CAR. Thirteen soldiers were killed in a battle with Seleka rebels outside the CAR capital of Bangui on 23 March.

"The spokespersons of the DA almost thanked their gods for handing them the gift of the loss of our soldiers so close to the next general elections," she said.

The minister accused opposition parties of distorting the truth about why SA National Defence Force (SANDF) troops were deployed to the country.

The opposition only saw how the deaths would justify the resuscitation of calls for a motion of no confidence in a democratically elected government. She accused the media about helping distort the facts.

"Not once have the reports about this mission ever emphasised the heroism of our soldiers, selecting to deliberately project an image of a defeated force without giving due recognition to the valour of the 200 SANDF troops who fought for nine hours against a group of 3 000, repelled the threat, killing over 700 and suffered minimal casualties."

Mapisa-Nqakula insisted the deployment was above board and done in terms of a memorandum of understanding with the government of Bangui.

"Let me assure all our people that South Africa's involvement in the Central African Republic, just as was the case in Burundi, DRC, Sudan and elsewhere, has been in pursuance of our international obligation to ensure stability and peace in the continent."

Mapisa-Nqakula said the United Nations expressed shock after DA MP David Maynier wrote to one of its representatives. Maynier asked if she had lied when she stated the UN had asked South Africa to maintain its military presence in the CAR after the security situation in that country deteriorated.

"It is a desperate attempt at finding something, anything at all, to embarrass the South African government and its respected standing in the UN system."


Mapisa-Nqakula said the only reason additional troops were sent to the CAR was to protect military trainers and assets.

"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."

South Africa would continue to enter into multilateral agreements to ensure stability on the continent, she said.

Maynier responded by again calling for a full-scale parliamentary inquiry, citing government changing its stories on the reason for deployment.

"First, we were told that the reason for deployment was to assist with capacity building, as well as with disarmament, demobilisation and re-integration.

"But, the forces which were deployed, including 5 Special Forces Regiment and 1 Parachute Battalion, were elite combat units, and hardly suited to this task."

Maynier said the decision not to withdraw troops needed probing as well.

"The answer to the question, as the minister has told us, was that Margaret Vogt, head of the UN in the CAR, requested the SANDF to remain in the CAR to, and here it comes, create a 'firewall' to protect Bangui."

Maynier labelled the deployment a "monumental defence diplomacy failure".

"In the end, South Africa was outsmarted, outmanoeuvred and outgunned in the CAR."

Congress of the People MP Mlindi Nhanha accused Mapisa-Nqakula of failing SANDF soldiers dismally.

Other opposition parties expressed similar sentiments.

Read more on:    da  |  sandf  |  david maynier  |  nosiviwe mapisa-nqakula  |  central african republic  |  car uprisings  |  military  |  central africa

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