RFI exclusive: South Africa - Central African Republic

South Africa denies claims that over 13 killed in CAR clash

Reuters/Stringer

South African ministers on Friday stuck to their figure of 13 for the death toll in fighting in Central African Republic (CAR) on 23 March. They denied the claim of a witness in Bangui who told RFI that as many as 50 South African soldiers were killed. 

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Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula insisted that the 13 death toll was correct, in spite of estimates given to RFI that between 36 and 50 were killed. 

The number of dead is a politically hot issue in Pretoria, where many are publicly questioning the role of South African soldiers in CAR

RFI’s special envoy in Bangui spoke to a source who says he was present at the French military base near Bangui where he saw more than 50 body bags being loaded onto a Hercules C130 aircraft sent by Pretoria. He said other bodies were arriving as the 50 were being loaded on to the plane.

The source wishes to remain anonymous.

General Arda Hakouma, who led the Seleka rebel coalition operation to capture Bangui, insists more South Africans were among the soldiers he killed.

“What is certain, I personally, Chief of Staff, chief of operations, so I am the one who directed the battle, I saw 36 South African dead and 22 wounded. That’s for sure, and there were prisoners too, we handed them over to Fomac [The regional African peacekeeping force for CAR]," he said.

Sources in the Central African Republic government and security sector told RFI’s Cyril Bensimon that the South African Soldiers are fighting to protect mining and oil contracts signed by South African companies with CAR president François Bozize.

Several sources said the South African soldiers fought so hard because they were being paid extra by François Bozizé.

A CAR minister told RFI that a South African company called Dig Oil, which is prospecting for oil in the area, is “a cashcow for the ANC and President Zuma’s nephew is a shareholder”.

Bensimon notes that if this information is confirmed, it will trigger a political crisis in South Africa.

Mapisa-Nqakula denied the charge.

 

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