The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans briefed the Committee on the agreements concluded between South Africa and the Central Africa Republic. Assistance given was in the form of training for the Central African Republic military in very important person protection and infantry tactics as well as the refurbishment of bases. There had been some protection offered to the president, but this had ceased. As the situation deteriorated, a protection force had been deployed in late 2012 to protect the trainers and South African military equipment.
On 23 March 2013, rebel forces had advanced on the presidential palace in Bangui. They attacked the South Africa base, resulting in a fierce battle with heavy casualties. It seemed that the attack had been a mistake. With the rebels seizing power, the government was no longer in place and the agreements made were no longer in force. South African troops and equipment were being withdrawn from the country, but South Africa was still prepared to answer any requests made by the African Union.
Members had a number of questions. In reply to these questions, the Minister informed Members that child soldiers had been involved in the battle, but soldiers had no option but to defend themselves against an armed attack. Thirteen soldiers had been killed and 27 injured, some of whom were still in a critical condition. One soldier had become lost but was returned to the South African base. A roll call had been taken after the battle, but the Minister did not confirm that all soldiers were accounted for.
Members felt that the situation should have been foreseen. The Minister was at a loss as to the heavy equipment carried by the rebels. The Chief of the South African National Defence Force said that the deployment had been ready and was aware of the capabilities of the rebel forces, but he felt that there had been an outside element involved. No clarity was given to Members on the role played by a nearby detachment of French forces.
Members questioned the role of assisting with the demobilisation and integration of rebel forces with the government forces. This role had been added after the original agreement of 2007. South African forces would not be used to attack another country, and rumours of a build-up of forces on the Central African Republic's borders were not discussed. The Minister was concerned over the involvement of external forces. Tactical issues such as the lack of aerial and armoured support, as raised by Members, were not discussed. It was confirmed by the Minister that only military assets were being protected.
Only limited time was allowed for the meeting, despite the call from opposition Members for the matter to be discussed fully in response to the public outcry that had followed the battle. An opposition Member reported that there was a public perception that government was lying to the public. After lengthy discussion on the admissibility of his comments, he pointed out mistakes in the letter of authority given to Parliament by President Zuma in deploying the force, and claimed that this was clear evidence of the President misleading Parliament. The allegations were denied by the Minister and her Deputy Minister. Mr Maynier refused to withdraw his comments or to apologise to the Department.
A debate had been scheduled in the National Assembly. The meeting was interrupted on numerous occasions by Members raising points of order, and Members expressed their frustrations with the way the meeting was conducted.
Briefing by the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans
Ms Nosiviwe Mapusa-Nqakula, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, addressed the Committee. While government was accountable to the country, and statements made should be treated sensitivity in the light of other deployments. Reckless disclosure of information might compromise their safety.
Min Mapusa-Nqakula said that the Central African Republic (CAR) was a land-locked country in the Great Lakes region. It had suffered decades of instability due to power struggles. In 2003 the President was ousted, and there had been elections in 2005. These were not accepted by all parties. There had been further illegal activities. Interventions included high-level missions reporting to the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC). There had been a call to renounce violence. The AUPSC had called on all parties to assist with the restoration of peace and security in the country. In 2007 the government had signed a new peace deal, recognising the rebels as a political party and incorporating their soldiers into the defence force.
Min Mapusa-Nqakula said that in February 2007 the Republic of South Africa (RSA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with CAR. The aim of the operation was for RSA to assist with capacity building in the CAR. Military training included very important person (VIP) protection, infantry training, provision of equipment and uniforms, and refurbishment of bases. AU had ensured that a peace deal had been signed between the CAR government and the rebels. RSA led the process of integration of the armed forces. .Another agreement had been signed in 2008, which provided for elections of 2013 and the formation of a government of national unity.
Min Mapusa-Nqakula said that RSA's intervention would contribute towards peace and stability in the Great Lakes region. The cooperation agreement had been renewed in December 2012. When the security situation deteriorated in 2012, RSA had deployed a security force for the trainers already in the country. It was necessary to protect RSA assets, which should not be allowed to fall into the wrong hands. It was important to emphasise that these additional soldiers were not trainers. Before this, there had been 26 South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members deployed in CAR, eighteen of whom were at Bowa and the remainder at Bangui.
Min Mapusa-Nqakula was aware of reports in the media that many soldiers interviewed had said that they had not conducted training. This was not the mandate for the protection force. Over the five years of the agreement with CAR, there had been a decline in the number of people being trained. The number of trainers had been reduced to the figure of 26. SANDF had recommended to the government that the trainers in Bowa should be moved to Bangui to consolidate the deployment. The protection force would protect the trainers and RSA property. This comprised equipment and vehicles used in training. These could not be withdrawn from CAR in a hurry.
Min Mapusa-Nqakula said that there had been a decision to continue monitoring the situation. As the situation was deteriorating in December, the Ministry had been working to extend the MoU, which expired in February 2012. There was a lot of debate between herself and her CAR counterpart. There was uncertainty over the whereabouts of some of the CAR citizens that had been trained. She had visited the CAR to assess the situation.
Min Mapusa-Nqakula said that regional leaders had started talks in January 2013 to defuse the situation. On 7 January 2013, the CAR president reached a deal with rebels to form a coalition with opposition parties. Elections would be organised for later in the year. While all of this was happening, the uppermost concern was the RSA forces. RSA realised the merit in renewing the MoU. The task was to protect the leadership of the country. This was a fair expectation. Part of the capacity building was training a VIP protection force. In the course of that, a project, Operation Murera, was born. This provided VIP protection. In 2008, the SANDF took a decision to cease this service and concentrate solely on training.
Min Mapusa-Nqakula continued that the protective force deployed from December 2012 was not there to defend President Bozize. RSA had made it clear that it would no longer provide VIP protection. The special forces did not even render this service in RSA. RSA would clearly spell out the services it would provide. Even in the MoU of 2007, the provision of VIP protection had not been addressed. This was a side issue that followed later. The MoU she signed in December 2012 made no provision for VIP protection. The soldiers deployed in January 2013 were based at a police college solely to protect SANDF personnel and property.
Min Mapusa-Nqakula said that around the same time, there was an agreement on the appointment of a Prime Minister. The President then signed a decree to remove the Prime Minister from office. All SANDF equipment was moved to the college, where training continued. The European Union (EU) representative had called on SANDF not to withdraw due to the tense and fragile situation in the country. The presence of SANDF forces was a deterrent. CAR was slowly recovering from a decade of instability. There was a history of coups. Instability could not be allowed, Rebels could not be allowed to overthrow the government. This was why RSA had led the process of demobilisation and re-integration.
Min Mapusa-Nqakula said that the rebels breached the ceasefire agreement and marched on Bangui on 23 March. They attacked the SANDF basis en route, resulting in a fierce battle. Despite being badly outnumbered, the RSA troops fended off the attack and inflicted huge losses on the rebels. The base was an old police college between the airport and the city. The rebels found the SANDF base in their way. Some RSA soldiers were killed outside the base. Defensive positions were put in place outside the base, to provide several lines of defence. Some of these outlying positions were surrounded. The soldiers had been involved in a fight. She was proud of the way the soldiers had defended the base, preventing any seizure of SANDF equipment, which could have been used on innocent citizens.
Min Mapusa-Nqakula said that on the weekend, a picture of a Toyota vehicle with a South African insignia had been published. Some vehicles had been donated to CAR, and this was what was pictured. No rebels were able to enter the base, and had in fact approached the base with a white flag. Two CAR troops had defected to the rebels. They said that there had been no intention to attack the SANDF base. The rebel leader asked RSA soldiers to assist in recovering bodies from the battlefield.
Min Mapusa-Nqakula had no reason to doubt the credibility of the rebel general. If the SANDF was the target, he would not have called for the ceasefire. Such an attack had never been anticipated, there had been accusations of poor intelligence, nor was the base geared to repel an attack on such a scale. This might have been a naïve approach. The SANDF had never anticipated becoming involved in the conflict. The mandate had never changed.
On rumours of a withdrawal, Min Mapusa-Nqakula said that once the coup had taken place the MoU was no longer in force. There was no longer a legitimate government. If the AU wanted RSA to assist in whatever way, RSA would respond. The mere presence of South African forces provided stability. The SANDF would implement the decisions made by the recent summit. Once the government was overthrown, a withdrawal of SANDF forces had started. There were very few SANDF troops remaining. There had been a request for a joint sitting of Parliament, which had been scheduled for 23 April 2013. The Joint Committee had requested an earlier sitting to discuss the matter. Members should hear the circumstances before any statement was made on a withdrawal.
Mr Thabang Makwetla, Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, had nothing to add.
The Chairperson invited Members to ask questions of clarification.
Mr E Mlambo (ANC) requested the Chairperson for leave to ask questions.
Mr P Lekota (COPE) raised a point of order. The Chairperson had only invited questions of clarification initially.
Mr Mlambo said that there was an issue over SANDF soldiers killing children during the battle. He asked if this was true.
Mr D Maynier (DA) asked if there were only thirteen casualties. There had been unconfirmed reports of more casualties amongst SANDF troops. He asked if any SANDF members had been taken prisoner, as there had been a report that about 50 soldiers had been captured and later returned to the base. On the protection of the president, he asked why the Annual Report for 2011/12 of the Department of Defence and Military Veterans (DoD) referred to capacity building and close protection of the President. He asked if there had been any assistance to the president to flee the country. He asked if any SANDF soldiers had been deployed to protect SA business interests.
Mr P Groenewald (FF+) said that the Minister had told Members that they were not prepared for battle as they had not foreseen the power of the rebel force. He wanted clarity on how it could be possible that this had not been foreseen. He thanked the Minister for her honesty in making this statement. He asked if the directives had been complied with. He asked if the SANDF had evaluated the situation properly. If this had not been done, he asked how the troops could have been sent into this situation. He asked if the SANDF had undertaken to fulfil the mission, or if the officers of the SANDF had felt that it could not fulfil the mandate.
Mr M Mncwango (IFP) asked why there had been no consideration of withdrawing SANDF forces. The soldiers were not properly equipped on the admission of the Minister. He saw some contradiction in this situation. He asked how the soldiers could have performed their duty without the correct equipment. He asked what role the French troops stationed at the airport had played. On the MoU, Article 2, one of the objectives was to encourage the development of industrial relations.
Min Mapusa-Nqakula honestly believed that it was fair to be honest and to take responsibility. She would not lie about decisions that she had made. It was not right that Honourable Members should refer to decision taken by the former Minister of Defence, Mr Lekota. She felt that Mr Lekota had give Mr Mncwango a copy of the MoU.
Mr M Nhanha (COPE) denied this accusation.
Min Mapusa-Nqakula apologised.
Mr Mncwango denied that he had been given a copy by Mr Lekota.
Min Mapusa-Nqakula continued that it was important to deal with matters honestly. She would take personal responsibility for the MoU signed in December 2012. All Members knew that there was a campaign in Africa to eradicate the practice of using child soldiers, but this was still happening. If a child was a rebel soldier and attacking one, the response was not to “offer a sweet and blow kisses”. This child must be regarded as an adult, perhaps drugged and ready to attack. This had been a battle. A soldier had to hit back hard, and it was unfortunate if the child was killed. The guilty parties were those who had sent children into battle.
Min Mapusa-Nqakula said that thirteen soldiers had been killed, but there had been 27 soldiers wounded. As of the previous Friday, three were still in a critical condition due to their injuries. No members had been captured. It seemed that one had got lost and ended up in a rebel area, and he had been shown the rebel casualties. He had been taken back to the SANDF camp after the ceasefire. There had been reports that there rebels were impatient with the slow progress of negotiations in Pretoria. The Ministry had not been aware of the casualties, but there was a report that the rebels had captured SANDF soldiers and were demanding a ransom.
Min Mapusa-Nqakula said that SANDF soldiers were still defending themselves when the president fled. They had nothing to do with the presidential palace, and had not assisted with his flight. There were reports that he had arrived unannounced in SA on 21 March with an ultimatum from the rebels. Pres Zuma had responded that there was a regional body in the area, the Economic Community of Central African States. There was never a responsibility to provide VIP protection. Even in RSA, the Police performed this role. No matter how much pressure was applied, as long as she was Minister, the SANDF would not provide that kind of security.
Min Mapusa-Nqakula replied that such an attack had never been anticipated. SANDF was aware of the rebels and their movements. The military formation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), consisting of troops from West Africa, was assisting with the defence of the CAR government. She was still wondering how this had happened despite her experience on the Joint Committee on Intelligence. Perhaps the extent of the rebel capacity had been underestimated. She had never heard of rebels moving around with heavy calibre weapons such as mortars. She did not expect that Members would raise questions of a tactical or technical basis. The release of such information would compromise the safety of SANDF forces in their various deployments.
Lieutenant-General Derrick Mgwebi, Chief of Staff: Joint Operations, SANDF, confirmed the figures of 13 fatalities and 27 injured. Only one of the injured was still in a critical condition. The SANDF was ready, based on the analysis of intelligence. They were aware of who the rebels were, their level of training and equipment. It was clear that those encountered were not from CAR. There were different rebel forces. When the ambush had occurred, the level of readiness had been increased on the second day of the incursion. As the situation had deteriorated, the Libreville agreement had changed the situation. A former rebel leader had become the Minister of Defence. A different direction had been expected, and that the rebels would have honoured the agreement. Once the Minister claimed to have been a hostage of the rebel movement, but had then led the rebels in their attack on Bangui. There was a regional force of between 700 and 800 troops. A line had been drawn at Damara, about 75 km outside Bangui. This force would have engaged the rebels had they crossed the line. There were also CAR forces deployed between this regional force and the SANDF base, but neither of these had engaged the rebels.
Mr Lekota said that although he had been the Minister at the time that the MoU was signed, he should not be expected to be a witness to some of the actions taken. The Minister had said that he could attest to some of the things that had happened. He did not think that he should be placed in that position. There were things that he knew, but also things that he did not know about. He was indebted to Mr Mncwango. He had been desperate to get a copy of the MoU he had signed on behalf of the country in 2007. He now had such a copy. The objectives were set out in part two of the document that the parties would cooperate in the field of defence in terms of military cooperation between the armed forces, the training of personnel
Mr Mlambo interjected that it was unfair for Mr Lekota to quote from a document when other Members did not have a copy.
Mr Lekota said that copies should be given to Members. He had asked that the document should be made public.
Min Mapusa-Nqakula said that any MoU was treated as a public document. It was unfortunate that Members did not have a copy so that there could be clarity on the contents.
The Chairperson asked Mr Lekota to make his point without reading the whole MoU.
Mr Lekota wanted to proceed in the right way. This was a public document.
The Chairperson said that he controlled the meeting. He instructed Mr Lekota to summarise the document.
Mr Lekota was only reading the relevant part. This would tell Members whether the original mandate was addressed. If he could read the points, he could then ask the Min a question.
The Chairperson asked Members for direction.
Mr Groenewald said that the current Minister had not signed the 2007 MoU. Mr Lekota should be allowed to make a brief statement before posing his question.
Mr Lekota said that there had been no reference to any commitment to plan, implement demilitarisation, disarmament or re-integration. In fact, the Min had replied to a question in Parliament in February 2011 that RSA's involvement in the security of CAR followed a request by Pres Bozize to assist the CAR to upgrade military facilities. An MoU had been accepted by Cabinet on 29 August 2007. The first time that he had become aware of the demilitarisation aspect was in a statement made by Pres Zuma in 2013. He asked what happened between 2007 and 2013. There must have been a new negotiation to make this change. He asked when this change had happened.
The Chairperson thought that Mr Lekota was finished.
Mr Groenewald said that other Members had been given the chance to ask more than one question. He should be allowed the opportunity.
The Chairperson said that Mr Lekota was addressing the meeting and not posing questions. He could save further questions for a further round.
Mr Nhanha said that it only fair for a person who had been attacked for signing a MoU to be given a chance to respond to the accusations.
The Chairperson felt that Mr Lekota had been given enough chance to state his case.
Min Mapusa-Nqakula said that Members must avoid a dialogue with the Chairperson.
Mr Nhanha said that the General had responded to some of the questions, and his answers had not helped the Min. The General had spoken of two lines of defence between the rebels and the SANDF position. Surely some kind of attack had been anticipated, but the Min and General were saying that no attack was anticipated. He asked why the soldiers had not been equipped properly. The Min had said that some of the equipment had been donated to the government of CAR. Mr Lekota knew that, and redundant equipment had been donated to other countries as well. He asked if the insignia of RSA was still on such equipment. The Minister was saying that the rebels were marching from the airport towards the city, and the SANDF base was on the way. His information was that there was a French base at the airport. If the rebels had intended to attack, they could have started with an attack on the French as they were better equipped. The Min said that Ms Hoght, the EU representative, was reported as saying that RSA should withdraw. If RSA was only there for training and not combat, he did not understand how SANDF could be seen as a deterrent.
The Chairperson said that the General had admitted he did not know how the rebels had bypassed the regional and CAR forces. The Minister would not know why the EU representative had made the statement.
Mr Mlambo said that Members were dealing with a sensitive matter, and Members should not act in an emotional manner.
Mr M Swart (ACDP) asked why there was a reported build-up of forces on the CAR border. There had been indications of a rebel force approaching, but there was talk of a different force armed with heavy weapons. There were rumours of other forces. The former president had said that he had been attacked by forces from Chad. An independent enquiry might be needed. He asked what role the French force had played, especially with their access to satellite surveillance.
Mr V Manzini (DA) asked if Pres Zuma had been informed of the risks of making the deployment without aerial and armour support. He asked if all the bodies had been recovered. RSA soldiers had been placed at huge risk without any helicopter support. He asked what assets were being protected.
The Chairperson said that there would be a joint sitting on 23 April. This would in fact only involve the National Assembly (NA). He ruled out any questions that had already been answered, or that would lead to the divulgement of information of a technical or tactical nature.
Min Mapusa-Nqakula said that there was a story about asserts of individuals which had nothing to do with the SANDF. The ANC had issued a statement on the assets. The SANDF would not go out to protect assets belong to individuals. The assets were purely of a military nature, and could not be easily withdrawn. Military commanders would never make statements about troop movements in public. In all the countries surrounding CAR, she could not be expected to detail the size of SANDF deployments. There was a forward area of operations. This assisted with deployments and withdrawals. The SANDF was being expected to be transparent on operational matters, and this could compromise the safety of troops. RSA was withdrawing from CAR, but there were still a small number of troops in the country. It was the SANDF, not the defence force of some other country, and its primary mission was to protect RSA. She would not answer the question on build-up of forces, but the SANDF would not be used to attack other countries. Peace and stability paved the way for development of countries.
Min Mapusa-Nqakula said that roll calls were held in military situations. She had called for this to be done after the battle, but did not give a direct answer to the question on missing soldiers. There had been a development in rebel situations was that rebels came from opposing groups, or even the army of that country. One might anticipate a rebel army of about 500, but thousands appeared on the day, some of which could not even speak the local language. This should concern RSA due to CAR's strategic location. Some of the rebels were not from the local community. South Africans could not believe that there was no threat to SA. The same problem was occurring in parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). National interest and issues of national security should be borne in mind. There was a worrying phenomenon.
Min Mapusa-Nqakula said that although the SANDF base was between the palace and the airport, she did not know from which direction the rebels had come. She wanted an answer to this question herself. It was a naïve question despite its importance. RSA did not share the same agenda with France. RSA had a bigger role to play in her African neighbours, especially in combating the mushrooming rebel groups. She believed the threat was not in RSA, but now had a lot of questions. She did not know if the donated equipment was branded.
Min Mapusa-Nqakula said that since the signing of the 2007 MoU, new issues had come to the fore. There had been an agreement to disarm. There was provision for VIP protection in a later agreement. The situation was dynamic. The AU had taken a decision that some of the process should be DDR. The MoU of 2007 had also not provided for VIP protection, but Mr Lekota had allowed this while still the Minister. The agreement had to be modified to deal with the changing situation.
The Chairperson asked Members for guidance on how much time should be allowed.
Mr M Motimele (ANC) suggested 14h30.
Mr Maynier said that many questions still needed to be asked. Members had only had one round of questions of clarity. The public needed answers, and the meeting should be allowed to run its course.
Mr Mlambo said that some Members wanted to return to their constituencies and had flights booked.
Mr Swart suggested 15h00.
Mr Groenewald said that there could not be an argument of flights. Members had a responsibility. He suggested that Members keep their answers short. He felt that the Minister would not provide more information. He agreed on the suggestion of 15h00.
Mr Maynier repeated that the public wanted answers. By cutting the process short due to travel considerations, Parliament would be creating the impression that it did not take the matter seriously.
The Chairperson felt that 15h00 was a reasonable suggestion.
Ms N Mabedla (ANC) said that members were being misinterpreted. Some Members had responsibilities in their constituencies.
Mr Lekota wanted to see copies of the documents he had allegedly signed. He asked how many citizens of the CAR had been killed in the battle, and what the implications for SA would be in the international arena.
Mr D Joseph (DA, Western Cape) said that the decision to withdraw troops satisfied the concerns of the citizens. The Min had made the decision to consolidate the force. He asked if she had communicated this to the President and what the response had been. This decision had been the cause of the death of the soldiers.
Mr Maynier had 35 questions, but had only been able to ask five. He was very frustrated with the process of the meeting. There had been public outrage, not just because of the loss of the soldiers. There was a perception that government had lied to the people on the deployment.
The Chairperson asked if Mr Maynier was saying that government had lied.
Mr Maynier said that this was a public perception that government had lied. Based on the evidence at his disposal, this was also his opinion.
Mr Mlambo said that the purpose of the meeting was to be briefed on CAR, and then determine the situation. Members had been disarmed because Pres Zuma had decided to withdraw the troops at the Dakar meeting. He asked what there still to argue about.
The Chairperson had allowed one question per Member, and he felt that Mr Maynier's question was not relevant. Members would take a decision on the way forward based on the information provided. Everything said was being minuted.
Mr Mlambo found the statement by Mr Maynier completely unacceptable. If he had evidence of government inconsistencies, it must be brought forward. This was a cheap way of seeking 'sound bites'. The Chairperson should calm him.
The Chairperson asked for guidance.
Mr N Booi (ANC) said that questions should be posed in line with the order given.
Mr Groenewald pointed out that this was not a sitting of the NA. Mr Maynier was saying that he had proof that government had lied, and he should present his case. Parliament could take action if he could not do this.
Mr A Maziya (ANC) asked if the proof would be presented to members in writing, or whether he would still 'doctor' this.
The Chairperson had never been in a meeting with so many points of order being raised. He gave Mr Maynier one minute to state his case.
Mr Lekota had listened to Mr Maynier. He had spoken about a public perception, and his personal opinion. Members were entitled to express their opinions.
Mr Groenewald demanded that Mr Maynier be given the chance to state his case.
Mr Maynier said that thirteen families were grieving for the loss of their sons.
The Chairperson stopped Mr Maynier. He would have to submit his evidence. He refused to allow Mr Maynier to continue even though he had the evidence.
Mr Maynier demanded the chance to pose his one question.
Mr Motimele suggested that the meeting be closed if there were no further questions. The Committee should meet again to discuss the information raised.
The Chairperson said that this suggestion was the most progressive he had heard that day. The Minister had made a substantive submission. He was not sure if the allegation of government lying had been dealt with. This should be taken up at a further meeting. This was a Committee that dealt with serious issues. A lot of time had been wasted at this meeting arguing points of order. He did not think this process was needed. If it had been done deliberately, it should be avoided. The Committee would deal with the matters raised by Mr Maynier.
Deputy Minister Makwetla did not have a problem with allowing the Committee to discuss the matter exhaustively to the satisfaction of the House. The matter would be revisited and the Minister had asked to make a statement in Parliament. It would be irresponsible to leave Mr Maynier's statement to stand unchallenged. Mr Maynier must table the material used in arriving at this conclusion. He must not be mischievous by throwing out a statement impugning government. There was no substance to his allegation.
Min Mapusa-Nqakula would have preferred to have heard Mr Maynier's argument. There was not a single question that would be avoided. Any inconsistencies would be explained. To start by making a statement that government had lied was wrong.
The Chairperson was getting confused. He had tried to give Mr Maynier a chance to develop his argument, but he had started by reflecting on the thirteen dead soldiers. He had thought that withdrawing the statement would not be enough. There would be repercussions to such statements. The media might rather reflect on the allegation than its withdrawal. If a person became 'childish', he should be banished. He did not know how legal such a step would be in terms of the rules of Parliament.
Mr Maynier felt it an incontrovertible fact that Pres Zuma misled Parliament over the deployment of the SANDF in CAR. In January 2013, the President had written to Parliament that the reason for the deployment was for capacity building of the CAR defence force, and to plan and assist with the demobilisation and re-integration process. The expected expenditure was R65 million. He had made a statement at the time that the President had misled Parliament, supported by a letter of clarification stating his point. In his second letter, the President had said that the deployment would run until the end of the MoU. There had never been a reference to a protection element.
Mr Maynier said that the second lie was on the budgeted expenditure. The President had conceded that the actual cost was R21 million per month, leading to a total expenditure of over R1 billion. This was an incontrovertible fact. This was why there was so much suspicion in the deployments in Uganda and DRC. Parliament had not been informed about this despite the President's constitutional duty to inform Parliament. It was incontrovertible that Pres Zuma had misled Parliament. If the opposition had not raised questions, this letter of clarity would not have been written.
Mr Motimele asked if Mr Maynier was reading from the same letter of 7 January.
Mr Maynier said that there had been two authorisation letters, which contradicted each other.
Mr Motimele had one letter dated 7 January. This did not support what Mr Maynier had said. Members did not have copies of this letter.
Ms Mabedla quoted from the Defence Act. Parliament had seven days to scrutinise the letter, and either accept or reject it. She felt that Mr Maynier's statement was no more than political points scoring. This should not be happening after the loss of life. Members had a duty to uphold the Constitution. If a Member felt that the President had misled the House, there was an obligation to do this as soon as possible. She felt that these matters would have been done in consultation with the Minister. Once the letters were published in the ATC by the Speaker there was a seven day objection period. Mr Maynier was only raising the matter now
Mr Maynier tried to raise a point of order.
Deputy Minister Makwetla said that the statement was being made to the Minister and requested the chance to respond.
The Chairperson said that there was an accusation that the DoD had lied, but now it was the President being blamed.
Deputy Minister Makwetla was amazed that Mr Maynier was basing his statement on the evidence that he had presented. An allegation of a lie being told implied that there was a conscious misrepresentation of the facts. Mr Maynier had admitted that he had written to the Presidency, and the issue had been corrected. There was no misrepresentation there. The Office of the President had taken immediate action to correct the original letter. On the letter of 7 January, the President had authorised 400 personnel to assist with capacity building and the re-integration process. The letter also said that the deployment would run in concurrence with the duration of the MoU, but the protection element could be revised if the situation changed. He did not know why Mr Maynier was making such far-reaching statements. He suggested that Mr Maynier withdraw his statement and apologise.
The Chairperson instructed that Mr Maynier withdraw his remarks and apologise.
Mr Maynier refused to do this.
The Chairperson did not allow him to explain further. The Committee would take the matter further.
The meeting was adjourned.
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