Pretoria – Operational commanders have painted a picture of chaos around the mission in the Central African Republic that claimed the lives of 15 South African soldiers – putting the blame squarely on the shoulders of the military’s top brass.
According to the Sunday Times, logistical blunders and feuding among military bosses led to South Africa’s ‘Mogadishu’ in March last year.
During three days of heavy fighting, 13 SA soldiers died and 27 were wounded. Two of the wounded died later.
However, the military has never revealed before that all the deaths happened in a single ambush on 23 March last year when about 100 paratroopers were being transported in open vehicles through rebel territory.
Details came to light after interviews were conducted with survivors during a probe into the incident.
The newspaper reports that field commanders had pleaded for armoured personnel carriers two months before the ambush, that they had asked for sniper rifles, Rooivalk attack helicopters, Oryx transport helicopters and a reconnaissance aircraft – none of which were supplied.
Troops painted a picture of chaotic supply of weapons and equipment while dual reporting lines contributed to the logistical chaos while force commander Colonel William Dixon gave a horrific description of the lead up to the final assault that claimed the lives of the South Africans.
200 fought off 3 000 rebels
At the time, Reuters reported that about 200 South African soldiers fought off 3 000 rebels in the assault and the battle lasted between 13 and 18 hours.
Shoke says the rebels eventually came with a white flag and negotiated surrender.
South Africa deployed 200 soldiers to Central Africa in January to support the poorly trained, ill-equipped government troops following an offensive launched by the Seleka rebel coalition in early December.
“Our soldiers paid the ultimate price in the service of their country…. we honour them,” said President Jacob Zuma at the time.
“Just over 200 of our soldiers fought bandits who wanted to cause harm… but the actions of these bandits would not deter us from our mission of peace and security,” said Zuma.
At the time, Sapa reported that the SANDF had become a target for reportedly helping CAR President Francois Bozize flee the country into the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
According to the report, top structures were warned by senior SANDF officers that the CAR mission amounted to “suicide”.
SA Air Force aircraft were also put on standby but due to financial constraints the Gripens were not armed with weapons with an attack capacity.
SANDF soldiers reportedly struggled on the ground due to lack of logistics and air support.
Soldiers had to ask French parachutists for essential equipment, with only one doctor present with a backpack for medical support.