What makes this tragedy so difficult to accept is the mounting evidence that there was no valid reason to deploy the South African National Defence Force to the Central African Republic in the first place.
Furthermore, it appears that the reasons given by President Jacob Zuma’s spokesperson, Mr Mac Maharaj in January that the soldiers would “assist with the capacity building of the CAR defence force and would assist CAR with the planning and implementation of the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration processes”, may not have been consistent with the facts.
Latest reports are that South African troops were involved in direct combat with both the Seleka Rebels, including young children, as well as Bozize’s own mutinous soldiers. The conclusion is inescapable that the South African troops were deployed to defend the faltering and dictatorial Bozize regime.
What makes this intervention even more disturbing is that the deployment was reportedly undertaken against expert military advice, allegedly to protect the business interests of a politically connected elite, both in South Africa and in the Central African Republic.
If this is so, President Zuma’s position both as President of the Republic and Commander in Chief of the armed forces, becomes untenable. The nation must know the truth.
Instead of clarifying these crucial questions, President Zuma continues to shroud them in secrecy.
“We believe that our troops should be withdrawn immediately. To this end, the DA will table an urgent parliamentary resolution – a power granted to us by the Constitution of South Africa – to compel the President to bring our soldiers back home” said Helen Zille, the leader of the DA.
The DA has already called for a full Parliamentary Inquiry into whether the President ignored the advice of senior officials: why the SANDF was deployed without a mandate from the United Nations or the African Union, and whether the President misled Parliament when he said that the SANDF’s involvement would be limited to “capacity building of the CAR defence force”.
The acting Speaker of the National Assemblyin Parliament, Nomaindia Mfeketo, has refused such an inquiry.
Given the continued controversy surrounding the deployment, the lack of a clear mandate for our troops to remain in the CAR, the continued risk to the soldiers’ safety, and rumours that SANDF is considering a ‘revenge’ mission into the CAR, the entire SANDF presence should be withdrawn immediately.