‘Did Zuma mislead MPs over SA troops in CAR?’

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iol nws sept 1 SANDF INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS File photo by Matlhodi Madibana.

Cape Town - The DA has questioned the reasons given by President Jacob Zuma to Parliament for the decision to employ 400 SANDF personnel in the Central African Republic, as well as the cost, and has suggested he may have misled it.

“President Jacob Zuma may have misled Parliament about the recent deployment of the defence force in the Central African Republic,” the party’s spokesman on defence, David Maynier, said on Wednesday.

Zuma, who is commander-in-chief of the armed forces, informed Parliament of the move, which he authorised on January 2, in a letter to the National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu, which is dated January 7.

In it, he states the SANDF members “will assist with capacity building of the CAR defence force” and “also assist… with planning and implementation of the disarmament, demobilisation and re-integration process” for a five-year period ending March 31, 2018.

“The expenditure expected to be incurred for this employment is R65 055 000,” the letter states.

Maynier disputed the veracity of this. “This cannot possibly be true,” he said.

The 400 SANDF members had been deployed “in the middle of what amounted to a civil war in the CAR”, where rebels had taken a number of towns.

Maynier wanted to know why members of “elite combat formations, such as the Special Force Brigade and the Parachute Regiment”, were included if the purpose was “simply to provide assistance with disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration”.

He said the cost “cannot possibly be” the amount of just over R65m cited by the president.

“This amount is more likely to be the cost of the deployment of the defence force for a couple of months,” he said.

He estimated the cost over the five years was likely to be in the region of R1 billion.

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