FACT CHECK | Mapisa-Nqakula contradicts SANDF, UN on alleged intimidation of SA troops in Sudan

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Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula
Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula
PHOTO: Jaco Marais/Gallo Images, Die Burger
  • National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula insists SA troops were under threat when SA was ordered to arrest former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir in 2015.
  • She acknowledged there was still confusion about the matter, but attributed it to the government's failure to address it.
  • It was her view that SA's decision to disregard the order saved the troops.

National Assembly Speaker and former defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says the government avoided political implications when it disregarded a court order compelling it to arrest former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir in 2015, who was wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide and crimes against humanity.

The Gauteng High Court in Pretoria issued the order during Al-Bashir's visit to South Africa.

Netwerk24 reported at the time that more than 800 peacekeepers feared for their lives in North Darfur, where Sudanese soldiers surrounded their bases. They feared Sudanese soldiers would kill them in retaliation for Al-Bashir's arrest. 

However, the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) denied that SA troops were held hostage in Sudan.

READ: IN-DEPTH | As SA prepares for a possible Putin visit, the symbolism of an ICC arrest warrant looms

According to Mail & Guardian at the time, spokesperson Simphiwe Dlamini said the SANDF was not under threat. He dismissed the Netwerk24 report, saying "there is no iota of truth in these allegations".

The United Nations (UN) also denied it. It said the troops were neither under threat, nor held hostage. 

"The information we have from Unamid (UN-African Union Mission in Darfur) is they were not under any threat and so that is where we stand.

"In terms of operational details, obviously, the troops on the ground may have to go through manoeuvres at any point in time. But, in terms of whether they faced a threat or were surrounded or held hostage, no, they were not," said Farhan Haq, deputy spokesperson for the UN secretary-general.

Omar al-Bashir photographed wearing white turban
The International Criminal Court had issued an arrest warrant for Sudan's Omar al-Bashir in connection with genocide and crimes against humanity.

However, Mapisa-Nqakula contradicted the SANDF in an interview with Newzroom Afrika on Wednesday.

She said the local peacemakers were "encircled" by the Sudanese troops on the day the court issued the order and that the government avoided political implications that could have resulted from Al-Bashir's arrest.

She said: 

Our people could have been easily massacred on that day. The Sudanese soldiers encircled our bases where our people were located. Yes, they are soldiers. Yes, they were in Sudan. But do you know what the implications of his arrest [were] at the time in South Africa?

"If President Al-Bashir had been arrested in SA at the time, there could have been serious battles which could have impacted negatively. We could have lost. We could have suffered serious casualties," she said.

Mapisa-Nqakula acknowledged there was still confusion about the matter.

She attributed the confusion to the government's failure to address the issue "so that South Africans are aware of some of the decisions".

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