Cwele to push CAR agenda forward

SA State Security Minister along with other officials will try and restore constitutionality to the CAR.

State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele. Picture: GCIS

CAPE TOWN/PRETORIA - State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele is part of a ministerial mission to the Central African Republic (CAR) which has reportedly received a commitment from self-declared leader Michel Djotodia to hold elections within 18 months.

Cwele joined foreign ministers from the region to press the rebels to restore the CAR to constitutionality after their coup last month which left 13 South African soldiers dead.

The ministerial team was sent to the CAR immediately after an emergency summit in Chad to consider what action to take after the ousting of President Francois Bozize.

The African Union (AU) has red-carded the rebel regime. It's also been fiercely criticised by the European Union (EU) and the United States.

Coup leader Djotodia reportedly told the ministers, who saw him in Bangui on Thursday, that he is establishing a council to lead the country to elections within a year and a half.

President Jacob Zuma has been invited to the follow-up summit in Chad to consider the ministers' report.

'DEPLOYMENT TO BE SCRUTNISED'

Experts on Thursday said South Africa's 2007 agreement to deploy troops to the Central African Republic (CAR) needs closer scrutiny.

At least 13 South African soldiers were killed in a bloody battle with CAR Seleka rebels last month.

The soldiers were killed when the rebels took over the CAR including its national and local radio and TV stations, causing its President to flee.

Questions continue to swirl about why the troops were deployed with some opposition parties even calling for an inquiry into the matter.

Defence analyst Helmut Heitman said if there is an inquiry it should look at the original agreement.

"Why did South Africa sign that memorandum back then and, as I was made to understand, President Bozize has asked South Africa not just for military support, but for a considerable economic investment."

President Jacob Suma has since decided to withdraw troops from the CAR.

The return of the troops is already being welcomed by opposition parties.

'SA HAD NO INTELLIGENCE'

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula on Thursday conceded the South African military had little to no intelligence which could have helped prepare soldiers who were attacked by rebels in the CAR.

The minister was grilled by members of the joint standing committee on defence in parliament on Thursday about the death of 13 South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members at the hands of rebels who unseated CAR President Francois Bozize.

"Sitting here I am still wondering how we lost it."

At times Mapisa-Nqakula seemed genuinely perturbed upon reflecting how South African soldiers came under attack.

She said she and military top brass never anticipated rebels would launch an assault on SANDF members.

She conceded they were taken completely by surprise.

"Is it that the information was not there or is it that we underestimated the extent? From the reports we are getting now we do have the equipment and we do have the armoury but I have never heard of rebels that move around with motors and heavy calibre machinery."

She told MPs she had no reason to doubt herself when she renewed a memorandum of understanding with the then CAR government.

It was a move which in hindsight opposition MPs have described as careless and deadly.