Open letter to Chairperson of Standing Committee on Defence regarding SA presence in the CAR from Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP (UDM President) (3 April 2013)

The aforementioned matter has reference.

The history of what occurred since that fateful weekend in Bangui, in the Central African Republic (CAR), where 13 South African servicemen lost their lives and another 27 were injured, is well documented.

We however keep hearing conflicting reports of South Africa exiting this area and that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has actually deployed more troops, and fighter and transport planes to the region.

Allegations of Chad and France’s involvement in the military action compound matters. In addition there are still questions about who gave the rebels safe passage, and also access to the capital and South Africa’s base. Who equipped and funded their mission?

The leader of the rebels, and the new CAR President, Michel Djotodia, has indicated that he will ask France and the United States to help retrain CAR’s “ill-disciplined” army that was “so easily overrun” by the rebels and they will review “resource deals”.

It is reported that French troops patrol Bangui’s streets ostensibly to protect French citizens, assets and diplomatic installations. In addition to their national interests, we hear that France was or is protecting our remaining troops confined at the Bangui airport. On what grounds? If this is genuine protection by the French troops, why are there pictures of Seleka rebels driving around in South African vehicles?

At first glance our soldiers were caught in a political crossfire and it appears as if France did not take kindly to former President Bozizé giving mineral rights to South Africa and China.

The United Democratic Movement (UDM) recommends that after this humiliation of our Defence Force, our foreign policy and our country, it would be better to make an immediate tactical withdrawal.

Should South Africa have a desire to re-enter this stage, it must be a sanctioned resolution of the African Union or the United Nations, especially since the bilateral agreement with our former “friend” is defunct because he is no longer in power. The UDM suggests that South Africa swallows its pride, come home to lick our wounds and start afresh.

Parliament would have failed its oversight duty if it does not endorse a need to establish a commission inquiry to ascertain, amongst other things, exactly which South African assets, as mentioned by the Minister of Defence, needed the protection of the SANDF.

Such an inquiry would clarify the confusion that was created when the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation (Deputy-Minister Ebrahim) said that the SANDF was deployed to protect the former CAR president (Operation Morero) versus what the Minister of Defence and the Presidency said about training operations only, with no mention of the protection of the former president. The Inquiry will also help to verify whether there had in fact been any training conducted by the SANDF in that Country over the last two years.

Yours sincerely,
Bantu Holomisa, MP
President of the United Democratic Movement