Bangui - South Africa has so far dispatched half of the 400 troops authorised to go to the Central African Republic as part of “capacity building”, the defence ministry said on Tuesday.
“We have sent around 200 comprised of different components of support,” defence ministry communications head Siphiwe Dlamini, told AFP in an interview.
“Our mandate is very clear. First and foremost, capacity building, training of the Central African Republic military, exchange of advisors, exchange of trainers and instructors,” Dlamini said.
“And of course I will keep emphasising that because of the situation on the ground, we do have a protection service to look after our own interests.”
He did not say what proportion of the troops were dedicated to training or protection.
The continental power said Sunday it had authorised 400 soldiers to go to the Central African Republic, without specifying then how many troops had already been deployed.
A military source at the weekend had told AFP that 200 South African soldiers had arrived in Bangui last week as rebels advanced towards the capital and threatened to topple President Francois Bozize.
The source had said the South Africans would join 400 Chadian soldiers already deployed to protect the key town of Damara.
South Africa insisted the deployment followed the renewal of a 2007 agreement with the government in Bangui and denied siding with Bozize's regime in the month-old conflict.
“We are there to train, capacity build the troops and the military of the Central African Republic and we are not there for anything else,” said Dlamini.
The remaining 200 would be deployed “depending on if the situation on the ground prevails.”
South Africa also has peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan's Darfur.