‘SA peacekeepers in Sudan are safe’

Reports suggested that SA troops were held hostage until President Omar al-Bashir left SA safely.

FILE. A South Sudanese man walks past a peacekeeper in Juba. Picture: AFP.

PRETORIA - The Defence Ministry has reassured South Africans that its peacekeepers in Sudan are safe after reports emerged that they were held hostage to ensure President Omar al-Bashir was not arrested and returned to Sudan safely.

The High Court in Pretoria ordered government to detain al-Bashir on Monday, on charges brought by the International Criminal Court (ICC), but it emerged that he was already on a plane home.

Al-Bashir is wanted on charges that include genocide and crimes against humanity.

LISTEN: Here are two divergent perspectives on the ICC in Africa and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's slick exit from South Africa on Monday without facing arrest or any legal action.

Netwerk 24 on Tuesday reported that Sudanese troops had surrounded three South African bases and pulled back after their president was safely en route to Khartoum.

The Defence Ministry's Siphiwe Dlamini said there is no truth to allegations that South African troops were held hostage.

"Our commander in Darfur met with the other agencies, particularly the Sudanese government commanders in the area. They held a meeting on Monday the 15th and they have a good working relationship."

The South African National Defence Union (SANDU)'s Pikkie Greeff said it's concerning if there is any truth to the reports.

"We're concerned about the safety of our troops. They are there as peacekeepers, they're not there to face conventional war. Our Commander-In-Chief, President Jacob Zuma, should take a very firm stand on this issue."

LISTEN: SANDU spokesman Pikkie Greeff speaks on allegations SA soldiers were held hostage in Sudan to ensure al-Bashir was not arrested.

The Sudanese government has also reportedly denied that there was any standoff between its troops and peacekeepers. 'HIGH COURT MISLED '

At the same time, questions have emerged over who allegedly misled the High Court as to the whereabouts of the Sudanese president, as he was en route back home.

A SANDF official has said it's the International Relations Department which compiles an aircraft passenger list and hands it to the air force officials at the Waterkloof Air Force Base.

For more than two hours on Monday the High Court was led to believe that while an aircraft had taken off, President al-Bashir's name was not on the passenger list and only later was it revealed that he had in fact left the country.

The question now is who compiled that list? And at what point was it realised that al-Bashir was out of the country, or was government council misled to allow the Sudanese president time to flee?

International Relations has declined to answer these questions and referred all queries to the national government, which has announced it will fully investigate the circumstances of al-Bashir's departure.

WATCH: Government given one week to explain how Omar al-Bashir left South Africa


Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has said the fact that some of the most powerful nations in the world refused to comply with the ICC created an environment for South Africa to allow Sudan's president into and out of the country.

In a statement released by the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, the cleric added that allowing al-Bashir into the country spoke volumes of South Africa's moral fabric as a government who refused to allow the Dalai Lama to come here on several occasions.

The statement reads, "If the world is to become a fairer, more compassionate, tolerant and peaceful place," it needs institutions such as the ICC.

LISTEN: A caller tells 702's John Robbie that his friend in the SANDF in Sudan says they've been on standby since President Omar al-Bashir landed.