Parliament ‘in dark’ about CAR troops

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iol pic afr car_soldier AFP A soldier ensures the security during a women's march in Bangui against the conflict in their country.

Cape Town - DA MPs are livid after learning that President Jacob Zuma deployed 400 soldiers to the troubled Central African Republic (CAR).

DA deputy defence spokesman Shahid Esau said Zuma was required by the constitution and the Defence Act to inform Parliament before authorising the deployment of troops. But according to independent defence analyst and Jane’s Defence Weekly correspondent Helmoed Heitman, Zuma was within his rights to authorise the decision and had up to three weeks in which to formally inform Parliament.

Esau added, however, that keeping MPs in the dark for several days was unacceptable.

“We understand that the president is the commander-in-chief and can make decisions based on international obligations, but he has at least to inform Parliament and the defence committee,” Esau said. “We’ve been reading about this in newspapers and seeing it on news bulletins, but we are in the dark.”

Zuma announced on Sunday that he had authorised the deployment of 400 SANDF personnel to the CAR. Maharaj said the soldiers would be deployed in CAR until March 31, 2018. They would assist with “planning and implementation of the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration processes”, he said.

Heitman said the decision had been taken at short notice and that there was “no way” all MPs could be informed while Parliament was in recess. “However, the president – once Parliament opens or in three weeks – has to inform Parliament of his decision.”

Heitman said the swift action by the president should be commended. “I see this deployment as a very positive move… executed with the speed of light.”

The CAR is facing a rebellion, with the threat of its turning swiftly into a civil war. Zuma’s decision to deploy the soldiers is bound to raise suspicions that South Africa has decided to back embattled President Francois Bozize against rebels trying to topple him. But Heitman said the real purpose was to provide protection for trainee troops and staff already deployed there for jungle-training purposes.

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