Get IOL's cool new iPad app...
The owner of the SA air charter company that lost eight employees in a Kabul suicide bomb blast last week has vowed to continue in Afghanistan.
“The operation will continue as normal,” Sej Dunning, chief executive of ACS/BalmOral said in an interview.
On Tuesday a female suicide bomber called Fatima, acting on orders of Hizb-e-Islami militants, rammed a car packed with explosives into a minibus carrying the eight ACS/BalmOral SA employees, and others, on a road to Kabul airport, killing 12 in all.
On Saturday Nelson Kgwete, a spokesman for the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, said a company contracted by ACS/ BalmOral to return the bodies of the South Africans to SA was still struggling to get clearance from Afghan authorities.
Kgwete said one of the problems was to get death certificates, which was simply a bureaucratic procedure.
As a result, it was unlikely the bodies would be returned until after the long weekend. Though his department had offered whatever assistance was needed, ACS/BalmOral was dealing with the problem itself so far, and would cover the costs of hiring a charter flight to return the bodies.
Though the Department of International Relations and Co-operation last week implicitly criticised the perpetrators of the Kabul bombing by condemning the killing of civilians in a statement, President Jacob Zuma has been criticised by opposition parties for failing to issue a condemnation.
Department officials insisted on Saturday this was not deliberate, and noted that the department had just posted on its website a statement made by SA’s ambassador to the UN, Baso Sangqu, on June 27.
In a statement in the Security Council, Sangqu said: “We condemn the rise of targeted killings of civilians, including children, and an ongoing campaign of violence directed at schools and educators.”
The statement went on to say that civilian casualties resulting from ISAF air strikes, as well as anti-government use of improvised explosive devices, remained a concern. ISAF is the name of the international force helping the Afghan government fight the Taliban and other insurgents.
Some commentators have suggested Zuma’s failure to condemn the killers of the South Africans might reflect official disapproval of their presence in Afghanistan.
In 2007, former president Thabo Mbeki signed the Prohibition of Mercenary Activity and Regulation of Certain Activities in Areas of Armed Conflict Act, which would have made it illegal for South Africans even to provide humanitarian assistance in war zones like Afghanistan, without official permission.
But the act was never promulgated.
Lawyers said last week that this meant the Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act of 1998, which the 2007 act would have replaced, remained in effect. That act, while forbidding unauthorised military operations by South Africans in war zones, explicitly condones humanitarian assistance.
ACS/BalmOral, according to reports, was involved in such humanitarian work, flying charters for bodies such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, the UN and USAid.
Dunning said on Saturday they had been flying for the UN, the Red Cross and other clients, “none of them military”.
He also stressed that the company was operating with both Afghan and international SA operating licences.
Independent Foreign Service