Open letter to Chairpersons of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Defence and Military Veterans of Intelligence of International Relations and Cooperation about “Which South African ‘assets’ needs protection in the Central African Republic” from Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP (UDM President) (26 March 2013)

Given the seriousness of the tragic death of our soldiers in the Central African Republic, (CAR) and that this is a matter of public interest, I would suggest that the Parliamentary Portfolio Committees of Defence and International Relations and Cooperation have a urgent joint session to get to the bottom of why the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) was deployed in the CAR.

There has been conflicting reports from the Presidency, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation and the Department of Defence and Military Veterans on the reasons for South Africa to have a military presence in the CAR.

We first heard that there had been an agreement between our two countries entered into in 2007 for Operations Morero and Vimbesela. The former, we were told, was for a unit of the SANDF Special Forces to be deployed in the CAR to provide VIP protection to President Bozizé. Operation Vimbesela involved the refurbishment of the military bases and the training of military personnel of that country.

After this weekend’s tragedy, the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, denied that our troops were in the CAR to protect President Bozizé. She did however admit that they were there to “protect South African assets”.

If nothing else is clear, it is that our Government is speaking from different mouths and no-one really knows what is going on. Or, between the Presidency and the relevant ministers no one is telling us what the real reasons are.

The only way to find out the truth is for the Portfolio Committees of International Relations and Defence to urgently have a joint sitting and demand that the Presidency and the relevant ministers come to sort out the confusion. In preparing for this meeting, these Departments must give:

a) Background on the reasons for entering into a cooperation agreement with the CAR in 2007.
b) Reasons for the five-year extension of the agreement in December 2012.
c) Details on which assets the SANDF were to protect.
d) Any documents conferring mineral rights to South Africa.
e) Information on whether South Africa still owns those mineral rights and if not, to whom they were sold and for how much.
f) Information on to whom the proceeds of these transactions were paid i.e. Treasury, individuals and/or political parties.

The Department of Defence should also give information regarding the state of readiness of our troops deployed in the CAR. Reports suggest that intelligence showed early this year that the rebels were ready to advance on the capital, Bangui, but the tragedy that played out over the weekend suggests that the SANDF was unprepared for this scenario. The Nation was told, in January, that 400 troops were to be sent to the CAR to protect the SANDF instructors; the question is why was half of that held back?

It is incumbent upon Parliament, and the relevant Portfolio Committees, to play its oversight role and expose the truth.

This matter is urgent; we cannot accept the current explanations of what is going on. South Africans are in the dark about what circumstances led to the deployment of our service men and women in the CAR.

Yours sincerely

Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP
President of the United Democratic Movement