SANDF: CAR rebels regretted killing of SA soldiers

A Seleka rebel stands guard inside the presidential palace compound in the Central African Republic. (AFP)

A Seleka rebel stands guard inside the presidential palace compound in the Central African Republic. (AFP)

"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 Brigadier General Xolani 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."

Mabanga said they did not receive any instructions regarding troop movements and the current death toll from Saturday had not changed.

"The current figures as mentioned [on Monday], to the best of our knowledge, are accurate," said Mabanga.

Apart from the 13 soldiers who were killed, 27 others were wounded and one was missing in action. Mabanga could not comment on media reports alleging what happened on the ground.

"We cannot comment on reports by the media based on allegations," he said.

Suicide mission
The Beeld reported on Tuesday that beyond the official toll of those injured, killed and missing, six special forces operators were also killed in the fighting.

The newspaper reported that the SANDF had become a target for reportedly helping Central African Republic (CAR) President Francois Bozizé 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".

South African Air Force aircraft were also put on standby on Monday night, though due to financial constraints the Gripens were not armed with weapons with an attack capacity.

SANDF soldiers reportedly struggled on the ground due to 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.

'Disaster'
The report also stated that renewed fighting broke out on Monday between SANDF soldiers and rebels.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) said on Tuesday that new reports on the "disaster" in CAR showed the need for a parliamentary inquiry.

"The SANDF soldiers evidently equipped 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 President Francois Bozizé."

He said it also needed to be known how the 13 soldiers died in the CAR.

The DA wrote to the speaker of the National Assembly, Max Sisulu, requesting the establishment of a multi-party ad hoc committee to conduct an inquiry in 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. – Sapa

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