16 January 2013

South Africa: President Jacob Zuma May Have Misled Parliament On the Deployment of the SANDF in the Car

press release

The deployment of 400 members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to the CAR was authorised by President Zuma on 02 January 2013.

A letter from President Zuma dated 07 January 2013, addressed to Max Sisulu, the Speaker of the National Assembly, informed Parliament about the deployment in the CAR.

In the letter, the President states that:

the reason for the deployment of the defence force was to assist with "capacity building of the CAR defence force" and to assist with the "implementation of the disarmament, demobilization and re-integration process"; and

the expected cost of the deployment of the defence force would be R65 055 000.

This cannot possibly be true.

First, the defence force was deployed in the middle of what amounted to a civil war in the CAR.

There would surely have been little opportunity for the defence force to assist with, for example, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of the defence force in the CAR.

Moreover, if the reason for the deployment was simply to provide assistance with disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, why use members of elite combat formations such as the Special Force Brigade and the Parachute Regiment?

Unfortunately, the impression is created that the defence force was deployed to provide support for President Francois Bozize.

Second, the expected cost of the deployment over a period of more than five years, between 02 January 2013 and 31 March 2018, cannot possibly be R65 million. This amount is more likely to be the cost of the deployment of the defence force for a couple of months.

The real cost of the deployment of the defence force in the CAR at current force levels, over a period of about five years, is likely to exceed R1 billion.

A number of hard questions need to be asked about the deployment of the defence force in the CAR, including:

Why the defence force was involved in a "military assistance operation" (Operation Vimbezela) in the CAR which went way beyond providing military training and included providing "close protection" to President Francois Bozize;

what are the real reasons for and actual costs of the recent deployment of the defence force in the CAR; and

why will we be sinking millions of rands into deploying the defence force in the CAR when we have insufficient funds to deploy the defence force to carry out border safeguarding in South Africa?

I will therefore write to Jerome Maake MP, Chairperson of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence, requesting a special hearing on the recent deployment of the defence force to the Central African Republic (CAR).

David Maynier, Shadow Minister of Defence and Military Veterans

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