Calls for CAR explanation continue


Verbal sniping and skirmishing against the Commander-in-Chief of the SANDF, his Defence and Military Veterans Minister as well as the top command of the force continues unabated following the battle for Bangui.

Leading the field in terms of shots fired is the official Parliamentary Opposition, followed by the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) and the country’s largest military trade union, SANDU (SA National Defence Union).

All are, in one manner or another, seeking clarity on events leading up to the high intensity firefight that claimed the lives of 13 members of 1 Parachute Battalion and saw another 27 wounded.

Opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party Shadow Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, David Maynier, has called for an ad-hoc multi-party committee to investigate what is now, in some circles, being termed the “CAR (Central African Republic) debacle”.

While the verbal offensive against government looks set to continue, the first indication of answers will only come next Thursday (April 4). Two hours have been set aside by the Joint Standing Committee on Defence for a one item agenda. That item reads: “Briefing by the Department of Military Veterans on the issue of Central African Republic”.

While it does not satisfy Maynier or his Parliamentary leader, Lindiwe Mazibuko, who wants President Zuma to explain the whole CAR affair to a joint sitting of Parliament, it will almost certainly lead to more questions being asked in the national legislature. Some in South Africa’s corps of military observers and analysts see this as being the only way of unravelling the entire CAR deployment as well as its tragic consequences.

Mazibuko backs her call for a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament saying “the death of 13 soldiers and another 27 wounded in a high tempo, high intensity battle is reason enough for the President to brief members of both Houses”.

She maintains the key question in the whole “CAR debacle” is: why did South Africa need to lose lives to defend President Francois Bozize?

Bozize has sought sanctuary in the DRC following the toppling of his government by the Seleka rebel group.
“It appears the decision to deploy troops was linked more to the President’s own close relationship to Bozize (he was in South Africa days before his government was overthrown), than in the best interests of South Africa and the continent,” Mazibuko said.

This has been rejected by both the Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans and the SANDF.

Sonwabo Mbananga, spokesman for Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, said the President had “no ulterior motives” when he took the decision to deploy troops to the CAR.
“We are perplexed at Maynier’s ability to make wild and unsubstantiated claims about the process of deployment together with the rest of the so-called analysts. The Presidential Note for any deployment is developed by the SANDF and is processed through the Minister after which it is sent to the Presidency,” he said.

The SANDF has also called SANDU “irresponsible and childish” as regards its comments on the deaths and wounds suffered by crack SA soldiers.

This after the union’s national secretary, Pikkie Greeff, said earlier in the week the SANDF would be “forever tainted for dithering in the face of a full-scale crisis”.

He said the CAR situation had “backfired politically” on Zuma.

SANDF Director: Corporate Communication Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga said SANDU was formed to fight transformation in the SANDF.
“The union wants to make sure the apartheid-led defence force remains intact.
“SANDU is misleading South Africans. It must stop using tragedies like this to seek publicity to gain members. The union’s comments are irresponsible, childish and ill-informed at the time when South Africa should be mourning the dead, all volunteers who demonstrated their patriotism and willingness to defend the country and made the supreme sacrifice for peace and stability on the continent,” he said.