There are no longer any South African soldiers in the Central African Republic (CAR), SANDF Director: Corporate Communication Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga said.
At the same time he at least partially lifted the veil of secrecy and non-communication that has hallmarked the South African deployment there.
“SANDF Military Command commends all SANDF personnel deployed in CAR for their brave and courageous actions when confronted by thousands of opposing (enemy) forces.
“Despite being outnumbered the South African soldiers stood their ground inflicting many casualties until their attackers surrendered and initiated a ceasefire which led to a truce.”
Mabanga said the SANDF took “no pride” in releasing the number of deaths opposition forces suffered in what has become known as the Battle for Bangui.
“It does, however, pride itself on the respect it commands from opposing forces.
“Reports from various sources put the number of dead in opposing forces at between 600 and 1 000. The SANDF will leave it to opposing forces to count their own casualties and be bold enough to admit that hundreds if not more than 1 000 of its forces perished in front of brave SANDF soldiers.”
He added the lack of balance in reports about casualties during the engagements between CAR rebels and the SANDF was “unfortunate”.
“Very little is reported or receives attention when it comes to the CAR rebels. This is either by design or default but the SANDF has taken note of that reporting and will never be shaken by false reports.
“The CAR incident will not, in any way, deter or demoralise members of the SANDF. Instead, it serves as a source of inspiration to soldier on. The SANDF wants to assure all South Africans it is always ready to execute any task it may be assigned to. The SANDF remains the pride of the nation,” he said.
Only nine of the 27 soldiers wounded are still hospitalised and receiving “all the necessary medical care,” he added.
While the change in communications as regards the CAR is welcome, one who still has questions is opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party shadow defence and military veterans minister, David Maynier.
After being blocked during last week’s hastily called Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) meeting on the CAR, Maynier now wants defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to urgently provide him with a copy of the second memorandum on defence co-operation between South Africa and the CAR.
“It was signed last December and apparently differs from the MOU signed in 2007.
“The MOU is a treaty and public document which should be readily available. Extensive attempts by the DA to track down the new MOU have been unsuccessful. It is nowhere to be found.
“Once a treaty is signed it must immediately be sent to the Treaty Section of the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO). The Treaty Section will then stamp it and monitor it, alerting the Department (of Defence) to its stated deadlines and obligations.
“It is concerning that nearly five months later the MOU is still not with the Treaty Section of DIRCO and that the section was not even aware of it until the DA attempted to track it down,” Maynier said.
He is worried this development is an indication the Department of Defence is “trying to hide the real reasons” for the SANDF deployment in the CAR.