The uprising in the Central African Republic (CAR) and the subsequent loss of life of South African troops deployed there has raised many questions as to what they were really doing there and if there were ulterior motives of having them there.
It seems that once again our government is not telling us everything and are trying their best to shut everybody up by claiming it isn’t national interest and that it in the interest of national security not to disclose details of what really happened.
The snippets of news that we managed to get indicated that our troops had vacated their base in Bangui in such haste that they had left their uniforms and equipment lying on the parade ground. Pictures showed the victorious rebels standing around amongst items left behind by the South African parachute soldiers (parabats). Now as far as my memory serves me, I don’t recall any soldiers in the SADF (South African Defense Force) ever vacating a base and leaving any equipment to fall into enemy hands. On the contrary the SADF took over plenty of enemy bases, where they had just dropped everything and run. Sometimes even before our troops had reached them!
An unconfirmed bit of news was that the SA troops had fled Bangui and taken shelter at the airport under the protection of French troops. Now if this is true, South Africa as a nation that prided itself as being one of the best armies in Africa, no longer exists. The French news agency has reported that the number of SA troops killed was actually between 36 and 50 and not the 13 as claimed by the South African government.
International Relations Minister Nkoane-Mashabane said that the South African government would investigate international reports querying the death toll of South African soldiers in Bangui. If this is being investigated then there may be some truth in the higher figures.
The excuse of not knowing exactly what the number of killed is that the situation in the CAR is still chaotic. Quoting the minister “What I can say is that what was confirmed by United Nations [UN] and African Union representatives based in the Central African Republic is that in a coup situation there will be chaos, loss of life, and other unforeseen circumstances”. Apparently the government is waiting for confirmation of what is actually happening in CAR which brings me to our esteemed minister of defense in parliament today:
Minister Mapisa-Nqakula sat in parliament and stated to the world that our troops were not equipped or prepared to deal with an attack by the rebels in the Central African Republic.
A further matter of concern is that the minister hinted that there are questions regarding quality of military intelligence provided to the SA troops in Bangui.
The clash with Seleka rebel fighters in Bangui on 23 March was not really a surprise as our troops were aware of the fact that the rebels were on the outskirts of the town and were advancing to take over power in a coup.
Then the minister came up with some statements that in any other country would have had her looking for a new job tomorrow:
“I’m still wondering how we lost it there, what happened.”
Now when a minister of defense sit back comfortably in her leather chair in parliament and states that she is wondering how and why we lost troops it just tells me that she has no idea of what happened and that she doesn’t deserve to be a minister of defense. From what I have heard she has never even been in the military and has no idea of what really goes on in her portfolio.
“I think that is what we did not anticipate, that the kind of rebel you would end up protecting yourself from is the kind of rebel which will come in heavy vehicles and will have high-calibre machinery, I think that’s what happened here.”
Now if reports from Bangui are anything to go by it would seem that the SA National Defense Force (SANDF) troops were equipped and had the necessary armoury to deal with the rebels they expected to encounter. But suddenly the rebels were armed with mortars and heavy-calibre weapons when they attacked the SA troops.
Lieutenant General Derrick Mgwebi then went on to say that military intelligence had showed that the rebels were poorly trained and that they really didn’t have any heavy firepower at their disposal. He then went on to insinuate that the troops that attacked the SA troops weren’t actually Seleka rebels but came from one of the neighboring countries.
Now even if they were, how did they manage to move from this neighboring country all the way to the capital without being noticed by the UN or the African Union or the French troops stationed in CAR? Where was our own military intelligence during all of this?
On Wednesday (3 April 2013) President Jacob Zuma announced South Africa would withdraw its troops from the country. Wonder if we will once again be exposed to yet another cover up? And the withdrawal won’t make it any easier for the families that lost loved ones in some foreign country for who knows what reason.