Minister of Defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula File photo: Neil Baynes

Johannesburg - The South Africans going to help the Nigerian army against terror group Boko Haram should be arrested on their return, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said in Beeld newspaper on Thursday.

She labelled them “mercenaries” in comments made to reporters on the eve of the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Beeld has reported that a multinational team of more than 100 private military experts was on its way to Nigeria to help against Boko Haram.

Former soldiers of the South African Defence Force (the predecessor of the South African National Defence Force) formed the core.

“There are consequences when somebody leaves the country and provides any form of military assistance that is not part of the government's deployment,” she said.

The police and prosecuting authority should make examples of the group by charging them under the Foreign Military Assistance Act.

Their team leader said they were not mercenaries, but would provide training in terms of a contract with the Nigerian government.

Mapisa-Nqakula said no SANDF member was deployed to Nigeria, and South Africa had not received an official request for assistance or weapons.

On Tuesday, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, the minister of international relations and co-operation, expressed her disappointment at the South Africans' involvement.

Sapa