Defence union: SA troops weren't prepared

SANDF chief Solly Shoke slams union SANDU for saying SA soldiers should not have been in the CAR.

Chief of the South African Defence Force General Solly Shoke says withdrawing the troops from the Central African Republic is not an option. Picture: Lesego Ngobeni/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Army chief Solly Shoke has slammed the South African National Defence Union (SANDU) for saying South African soldiers should not be in the Central African Republic (CAR).

SANDU said President Jacob Zuma should have withdrawn troops when that country's president failed to honour a peace agreement.

On Monday, the president confirmed 13 South African soldiers were killed when Seleka rebels overran the country's capital, Bangui, causing President Francois Bozize to flee to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Twenty-seven soldiers survived but were wounded. One soldier is unaccounted for and is presumed missing.

The union, along with other groups, slammed the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) for not properly equipping South African peacekeeping troops in the CAR.

"Our troops were not equipped and were not sent there with a mandate to engage in conflict," said SANDU National Secretary Pikkie Greeff.

Greeff said this resulted in the SANDF troops being "outnumbered, outgunned and trapped".

But Shoke said criticism against the president was irresponsible.

"I find it is mischievous. This is not a time for people to become opportunistic and try to gain ground that doesn't exist."

Meanwhile, SANDF spokesperson Xolani Mabanga said arrangements were being made to bring the bodies of those killed home.

"What will happen to the bodies of those troops is that all the necessary administration required will be followed to ensure that their mortal remains are returned to the country."

Mabanga also said that measures have been taken to ensure that those who died would receive the necessary respect.