SANDF deployment to CAR a disaster from the start - David Maynier

DA MP says inquiry needed into inter alia whether President Zuma effectively misled parliament

We need a full-scale parliamentary inquiry into the disaster in the CAR

The Democratic Alliance (DA) believes that Speaker of the National Assembly, Max Sisulu should appoint a multi-party ad hoc committee, comprising of members of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Co-operation and the Joint Standing Committee on Defence, to conduct a comprehensive inquiry into the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) "military assistance operation" in the Central African Republic (CAR).

Today, General Solly Shoke, Chief of the South African National Defence Force, informed us that 13 soldiers were killed, 27 soldiers were wounded, and 1 soldier is missing in a "high tempo, high intensity battle" in the CAR. 

We extend our condolences to the families and friends of the soldiers who lost their lives in the CAR.

The highly questionable deployment of the SANDF to the CAR, which was authorized by President Jacob Zuma on 02 January 2013, has been a complete disaster from the beginning. The official reason for the deployment of the SANDF, which was essentially to assist with capacity building of the CAR defence force, was never plausible.

The multi-party parliamentary ad hoc committee must probe a number of issues including: 

  •  whether President Jacob Zuma authorized the deployment of the SANDF against the advice of the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, and the Military Command who reportedly recommended, earlier this year, that the 28 soldiers originally deployed in the CAR should be withdrawn;
  • whether the President effectively misled Parliament when he informed members of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence that the SANDF was being deployed in the CAR to assist with "capacity building of the CAR defence force" and to assist with the "implementation of the disarmament, demobilization and re-integration process";
  • why the SANDF was deployed, in terms of a Memorandum of Understanding between South Africa and the CAR, rather than a mandate from the United Nations or the African Union; 
  • why the defence force was deployed, in the middle of what amounted to a civil war, with so little military support: there were no helicopter gunships to provide air support to SANDF soldiers or transport aircraft to evacuate SANDF soldiers from the CAR; and
  • the exact circumstances under which 13 members of the SANDF were killed in the CAR.

The SANDF was deployed in terms of a Memorandum of Understanding with a government that no longer exists, and there seems to be no peace to keep in the CAR. Moreover, there is a serious question about whether the SANDF has the capacity to support and sustain military operations in the CAR.

The priority must therefore now be to withdraw the SANDF from the CAR. In the end, the fact is that the SANDF should never have been deployed in the CAR.

Statement issued by David Maynier MP, DA Shadow Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, March 25 2013

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