13 South African soldiers killed in CAR - Jacob Zuma

President says he is proud of our troops, 200 of them fought more than 1 000 bandits

Statement by President Jacob Zuma on the eve of the hosting of the 5th BRICS Summit Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guest House, Pretoria

25 March 2013

Ministers and Deputy Ministers,

Members of the Media,

Thank you for attending this media briefing ahead of the historic 5th BRICS Summit which is being held on South African soil for the first time.  But before we discuss that important matter, allow me to give a short briefing on the tragedy that has befallen our nation, the death of our soldiers in the Central African Republic.

On 31 December 2012, I sent Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to the Central African Republic to assess the security environment and general situation, which was tense after the Seleka Rebel Coalition launched an armed campaign on 10 December.

The report from that mission recommended an intervention.

On the 2nd of January 2013 in my capacity as the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, I authorised the employment of up to 400 South African National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers to the Central African Republic (CAR), but had sent just above 200 thus far. The employment was authorised in accordance with the provisions of section 201 (2) (c) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996.

This was in fulfilment of a bilateral cooperation agreement.

South Africa and the Central African Republic signed a military cooperation agreement in 2007, which was renewed for a further five years in December 2012.

That agreement was to provide the Central African Republic's army with an array of military training, from infantry, artillery and Special Forces training to logistics and driving courses, as well as "refurbishment" of military infrastructure in Bouar and Bangui.

South Africa's military has also supported the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programmes, and it assisted in Central African Republic's 2011 elections.

The employment was also part of our efforts to contribute towards peace and stability in the region.

We said then that the SANDF will assist with capacity building of the CAR Defence Force and help CAR with the planning and implementation of the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration processes.

We went further to urge all parties to immediately cease hostilities, withdraw from the captured cities and cease any further advances towards Bangui.

As a member of the African Union, South Africa rejects any attempt to seize power by force, and therefore would support sanctions and other measures against the perpetrators of any unconstitutional change of government.

Wherever our troops are deployed they have the duty to defend themselves is their positions fall under attack.

Accordingly, we are deeply saddened by the events and developments in that country over the past 72 hours which saw violence escalating and many innocent lives lost.

We have confirmed that 13 of our brave soldiers, who were committed to fighting for peace and stability in Africa, fell in Bangui.

One soldier is still not accounted for and they are still looking for him.

Twenty seven were wounded. We wish them a speedy recovery. The Chief of the SANDF, General Shoke, will provide further details later today on operational matters.

On behalf of the Government and the people of South Africa I would like to convey our sincere condolences to the bereaved families.

It is a sad moment for our country during a period when we should be celebrating our hosting of the BRICS summit for the first time.

But we are truly proud of our soldiers. Just over 200 of them fought bandits numbering more than a 1000 people.

They fought a high tempo battle for nine hours defending the South African military base, until the bandits raised a white flag and asked for a ceasefire. Our soldiers inflicted heavy casualties among the attacking bandit forces.

Our soldiers paid the ultimate price in the service of their country and Africa. We honour them for their bravery and commitment to peace.  

The actions of these bandits will not deter from us our responsibility of working for peace and stability in Africa and of supporting the prevention of the military overthrow of constitutionally elected governments and thus subverting democracy.

We will announce further details in due course regarding how the nation will mourn and honour these brave South Africans.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Tomorrow we will mark another milestone in the history of our country and continent when Heads of State and Government arrive in South Africa for the Fifth BRICS Summit, which will take place in Durban.  

We are privileged to be hosting the following leaders:

· Her Excellency President Dilma Rousseff of the Federative Republic of Brazil.

· His Excellency President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation.

· His Excellency President Xi Jinping of the People's Republic of China, and the

· Honourable Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of the Republic of India.

The theme for this 5th BRICS Summit is BRICS and Africa Partnership for Development, Integration and Industrialisation.

The Summit coincides with the historic celebration in May this year, of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Organisation for African Unity, which has evolved into the African Union.

As part of marking this milestone and promoting African renewal, I will be hosting the BRICS Leaders Africa Dialogue Forum Retreat after the conclusion of the Fifth BRICS Summit.

I have invited 15 African Heads of State.

These include the Chairperson of the African Union; the Chairperson of the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee; the Heads of State and Government Chairing the AU's Eight Regional Economic Communities (RECs) as well as the Heads of State and Government Championing the AU/NEPAD Presidential Infrastructure Championing Initiative.

I have also invited the Chairperson of the African Union Commission. In all, we will host 19 Heads of State and Government from BRICS and the continent. This is a real privilege for our young nation.

The Africa retreat will meet under the theme, "Unlocking Africa's potential: BRICS and Africa Cooperation on Infrastructure".

The Retreat will reflect primarily on infrastructure development, as well as integration and industrialisation, which are aligned to Africa's own priorities, for the mutual benefit of the BRICS countries and the Continent.

Tomorrow, on the 26th of March, we have the honour of hosting the President of the People's Republic of China for a State Visit, so soon after his assumption of office.

Several agreements will be signed cementing economic ties between the two countries. I also have the privilege to host the President of the Russian Federation on a working visit, also tomorrow, on the 26th of March.

We expect to sign a Declaration on Strategic Partnership of the two countries.

A number of important Agreements will also be signed by Ministers in the fields of Arts and Culture, Agriculture,

Defence, Education, Energy, Science and Technology, Transport and other legal frameworks.

We will also hold bilateral discussions with the President of the Federative Republic of Brazil and the Prime Minister of India, to further deepen cooperation. We will also sign some agreements collectively as BRICS during the two fruitful days. 

The 5th Summit of BRICS concludes the first five-year cycle. South Africa will chair the group for 12 months after Durban, and then hand over to Brazil.

The 2013 Summit, like those before it, takes place against the backdrop of the continued economic difficulties across the globe.

In 2012, BRICS economies served as a bulwark in the global economy, when most developed economies witnessed sharp slowdowns or negative growth.

The collective strength of the BRICS economies is therefore a crucial factor in the global economy. South Africa values its membership of BRICS immensely.

Our national policy framework, the National Development Plan and operational plans falling under its umbrella, such as the New Growth Path and the Industrial Policy Action Plan 3 emphasise the identification of opportunities in the fast-growing economies of China, India and Brazil, both in terms of export promotion and as sources of Foreign Direct Investment. 

BRICS fits in well with our National Development Plan objectives of raising employment through faster economic growth, improving the quality of education, skills development and innovation as well as building the capacity of the state to play a developmental, transformative role.

At a global level, we want to obtain increased support for the reform of International Financial Institutions, the revival of the Doha Development Agenda, as well as the reform of the United Nations including the United Nations Security Council.

The importance of BRICS for South Africa is best reflected in bilateral trade relations at a practical level.  In 2012, South Africa's total trade with the BRICS countries stood at 294 billion rand, which is 11% higher than the 2011 figure of 264 billion rand.

Total trade with Brazil grew from 18 billion rand in 2011 to 20 billion rand in 2012, representing growth of 11%. Total trade with Russia increased from three billion rand in 2011 to five billion rand in 2012, representing growth of 45%.

Total trade with India, which is South Africa's sixth largest trading partner, grew substantially from 53 billion rand in 2011 to 67 billion rand in 2012, representing growth of over 26%.

China ranks first among the BRICS Partners and is South Africa's largest bilateral trading partner, with total trade expanding from 188.42 billion rand in 2011 to 201 billion rand in 2012, representing growth of 7%.

Intra-BRICS trade expanded by 28% in 2011, to reach 230 billion US dollars.  Another area of focus is infrastructure development at a domestic, regional and continental level.

To further expand economic relations, a BRICS Business Forum is planned for tomorrow, on 26 March in Durban.

The areas of focus include infrastructure, energy, financial services, mining and beneficiation as well as agro-processing.

These will be deliberated upon for presentation to the Heads of State and Governments of the BRICS member countries. 

The forum will be attended by 125 delegates from China, 125 from the Russian Federation, 74 from India, 60 from Brazil and 242 from South Africa.

We are scheduled also to launch the BRICS Business Council during the Summit. 

Other deliberations will focus on the proposed BRICS Trade and Risk Development Pool which will harness the collective and reinsurance capacity as well as facilitate intra-BRICS Trade and Investment. 

Furthermore, business will also deliberate on the envisaged BRICS Cable which will focus on a new high-capacity optic fibre cable of 28 400km, linking the BRICS countries.

This will remove the dependency on developed countries as interconnection points, and will provide direct communications among BRICS countries. A major output for us will be the establishment of the BRICS Development Bank to assist in mobilising resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies.

The BRICS Finance Ministers will present results of the feasibility study during the Summit. A BRICS Academic Forum was held from 11 to 13 March 2013 at the Durban University of Technology, it is another successful outcome ahead of the Summit. South Africa as host country has a good reputation of hosting international events of this magnitude.

We have hosted mega events exceptionally well in the past, and we intend to make this BRICS summit a successful and memorable one too for all delegates. 

We extend a warm welcome to all our special guests and wish them a wonderful stay in our country.

I thank you. 

Statement issued by The Presidency, March 25 2013

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