13 SA soldiers dead in CAR - Zuma

President Jacob Zuma has confirmed that 13 SANDF peacekeepers have died in clashes in the CAR.

President Jacob Zuma with SANDF soldiers in Tripoli,Lybia. Picture: GCIS

JOHANNESBURG - President Jacob Zuma on Monday confirmed that 13 South African peacekeepers have died in clashes in the Central African Republic (CAR).

Zuma defended the deployment of troops to that country, in a briefing to the media ahead of the Brics summit.

The president said one soldier was still unaccounted for and a further 27 were wounded.

Rebels launched an attack on the South African base on the outskirts of the capital Bangui at the weekend.

Zuma said he was proud of the soldiers who fought in a fierce battle.

"Just over 200 of them fought bandits, numbering more than 1,000 people. They fought a high tempo battle for nine hours defending the South African military base until the bandits raised a white flag."

The president said he authorised the deployment of about 200 troops to the CAR after a after a security assessment found the need for greater intervention.

"The deployment was authorised in accordance with the constitution. This was in fulfilment of a bilateral cooperation agreement. South Africa and the Central African Republic signed a military cooperation agreement in 2007."

South Africa sent 250 troops to the CAR in January to protect two dozen military trainers that have been there for some years, in terms of a bilateral agreement.

It boosted this strength when the power-sharing deal struck two months ago between President Bozize and the rebels broke down last week.

Meanwhile, this Johannesburg man says his family is worried sick because his brother is a South African soldier in CAR.

Obakeng Selethwene has told Eyewitness News his brother, Simon, has been in the region since late 2012 and now they are battling to get hold of him.

He says his family wants answers.

"We are trying to get hold of anyone who can give us information on what is happening. The parents are really panicking."