Following clashes with rebels in the Central African Republic, the SANDF has released the names of the 13 South African soldiers killed.
The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) released the names of the soldiers who died in the Central African Republic (CAR) late on Tuesday.
"The minister of defence and military veterans, chief of the South African National Defence Force, chief of joint operations and chief of the South African Army wish to extend their sincerest condolences to friends and families of the deceased," a statement said.
Their names are as follows:
- Corporal Mokgadi Darius Seakamela
- Corporal Ntebaleng Andrew Mogorosi
- Lance Corporal Daniel Sello Molara
- Lance Corporal Lukas Mohapi Tsheke
- Rifleman Lesego Maxwell Hertzog
- Rifleman Zamani Jim Mxhosana
- Rifleman Xolani Dlamini
- Rifleman Vusumzi Joseph Ngaleka
- Rifleman Karabo Edwin Matsheka
- Rifleman Khomotso Paul Msenga
- Rifleman Maleisane Samuel Thulo
- Rifleman Motsamai William Bojane
- Rifleman Thabiso Anthon Phirimana
President Jacob Zuma confirmed that 13 SANDF members died during clashes with Seleka rebels in the CAR over the weekend.
"It is a sad moment for our country. We are truly proud of our soldiers – about 200 of our men fought a force of more than 1 000 bandits for nine hours," Zuma told journalists in Pretoria on Monday.
The president said one soldier still remained unaccounted for, while a further 27 were injured in the weekend skirmish. The defence force clarified the uncertainty, saying: "The SANDF would like to report that the member who was reported missing in action has been found alive and is in good spirit."
The defence force said that all members who died were from 1 Parachute Battalion unit in Bloemfontein.
The bodies of the 13 soldiers arrived in South Africa on Tuesday evening, the military said.
SANDF spokesperson Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga said the soldiers' remains had arrived by 8pm on Tuesday.
Mabanga said he could not verify rumours that around 40 troops were being held captive by rebels in the CAR.
"We have not heard of that," he said.
The main clash occurred at an SANDF base on the outskirts Bangui and was coupled with other isolated incidents around the CAR capital.
Before the SANDF released the names, it said rebels in the CAR regretted the action that led to the death of the South African soldiers.
"On Sunday morning the leaders of the rebels came to the base and discussed what happened on the ground, and they regretted exchanging fire with SANDF soldiers," said Mabanga on Tuesday.
"Since then there hasn't been any threatening situation against the SANDF. We are not taking anything lightly and are taking all precautionary measures to ensure SANDF members are safe on the ground."
The Beeld reported on Tuesday that beyond the official toll of those injured and killed, six special forces operators were also killed in the fighting.
The newspaper reported the SANDF had become a target for reportedly helping ousted CAR president Francois Bozizé to flee the country into the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
According to the report, top structures were warned by senior SANDF officers last week that the CAR mission amounted to "suicide".
SANDF soldiers reportedly struggled on the ground due to a lack of logistics and air support. Soldiers had to ask French parachutists for essential equipment, with only one doctor present, with a backpack for medical support.
The Democratic Alliance said on Tuesday that new reports on the "disaster" in CAR showed the need for a parliamentary inquiry.
"The SANDF soldiers evidently acquitted themselves well under fire, in circumstances where they were vastly outnumbered by rebel forces," said DA defence spokesperson David Maynier in a statement.
"But in the end, they appear to have been left dangling, without the necessary military support. We need to get to the bottom of why the SANDF was deployed in the CAR, effectively to support Bozize."
He said it also needed to be known how the 13 soldiers died in the CAR.
The DA has written to the speaker of the National Assembly Max Sisulu, requesting the establishment of a multi-party ad hoc committee to conduct an inquiry on the SANDF's deployment in CAR.
"In the end, President Jacob Zuma's decision to deploy the SANDF in the CAR – effectively to support President Francois Bozize – has been a complete disaster," said Maynier.
AU suspends CAR
The African Union on Monday suspended the Central African Republic after rebels seized power in the capital.
Rebel leader Michel Djotodia said he planned to declare himself president on Tuesday after his Seleka coalition took control of Bangui in the wake of the collapse of a two-month-old peace deal with Bozize's regime.