Sunday, April 14, 2013

'The Battle in Bangui: The untold inside story' – Truth or Propaganda?

The Battle in Bangui: The untold inside story

There has been much speculation and rumour going around since the March 2013 battle for Bangui in the Central African Republic (CAR).  Zuma and his government has also came under heavy criticism and questioning after it was confirmed that South Africa had lost 13 paratroopers and suffered 27 casualties in the battle.

Various news agencies reported that the SANDF death toll in the Bangui battle is far higher than officially reported. Some news agencies in France reported casualty-numbers between 36 and 50. Commander of the Brigade Rouge, General Hassan Ahmat, told The Times in Bangui that after the battle he himself saw 36 bodies of South African soldiers. He added that more could have died afterwards from their wounds.

SANDF spokesperson Brigadier- General Xolani Mabanga described the comments as "blue lies". "We have no missing soldiers or bodies… I don't know what they are planning to achieve with these unfounded stories," he said. [Source]

If the rumours regarding the casualties are true then it means that quite a number of slain SA soldiers never received a memorial service, and that family-members of the slain were lied to, or perhaps bribed to keep quiet. The possibility also exists that relatives are still under the impression that their dearly beloved are still bravely serving the country on a new assignment somewhere in Africa. Anything is possible - ‘cause This Is Africa!

Military writer and a long-time SA correspondent for Jane’s Defence Weekly, Helmoed Heitman, expressed his doubts concerning these rumours, saying that in a country like South Africa it would quickly be exposed if the death toll is higher than officially reported. People would notice if soldiers were not coming home (after how many years?)… He added that not even the Soviet Union could get away with lies like that… But then again - Helmoed Heitman works as a consultant for the SANDF.

See also the report in The Citizen: Defence analyst did take arms money

In a matter of a few days after the battle, near the end of March 2013, Heitman was able to provide a reasonably detailed report on how the battle unfolded. After reading his report one cannot help but wonder if Heitman wasn’t perhaps contracted by the government to restore the shaken image of the SANDF, particularly in the light of the fact that South Africa’s military presence in the CAR has been described as “an ill-conceived mission” by so many analysts.

Nevertheless, later -- based on interviews with a number of the officers involved in the mission, both from HQ in Pretoria and on the ground in Bangui, Heitman compiled a more comprehensive account, which not only describes - in substantial detail, what exactly happened in Bangui, but also why President Zuma sent the troops, and what lessons South Africa needs to take out of the events.

Heitman’s latest account - The Battle in Bangui: The untold inside story, is being distributed by Mampoer in various digital e-book formats. A Review Copy (PDF) can also be downloaded on the website of (see note below). Rapport also gave the publication a sizeable (full page) exposure in their Weekliks supplement, dated 14 April 2013, calling it: Die slag van Bangui: Skoot vir skoot. See abridged online version here.

Note: The link to OFM’s review copy was removed after receiving an urgent request from MampoerShorts to do so – (Tia Mysoa 14-04-2013 @ 13:15)

Propaganda is usually repeated and dispersed over a wide variety of media in order to create the chosen result in audience attitudes. [Source]

The following excerpt from the last few pages of Heitman’s publication does not create the impression that Heitman was influenced by ANC politics in any way. On the other hand – propaganda may be administered in insidious ways, and very few people read to the very end.

An excerpt from The Battle in Bangui: The untold inside story
“Do not blame the soldiers and junior leaders: they are doing their best and their best is often quite outstanding. The fighting around Bangui was a particular demonstration of that. Do not blame the generals for deploying small or under-armed forces: they can only ‘do the best with what they have’ as a former chief of the Defence Force used to say in another time. And ‘what they have’ in terms of the number of soldiers, the type of equipment and the support capabilities is simply inadequate for the role that South Africa’s government wishes to play.
If there is blame it must go to the politicians who starve the Defence Force financially and then expect it to work miracles. Soldiers of all countries do that all the time, but sooner or later they are expected to do the impossible, and that will take a little longer or prove rather more costly than expected. South Africa must decide whether it is going to undertake regional missions or not. If we are going to do that, we must provide our troops with the equipment needed for such operations, which must as a matter of urgency include transport aircraft to fly in light armoured vehicles and Rooivalk and Oryx helicopters, and tanker aircraft to enable the Gripen and Hawk to be deployed quickly if necessary.
There is no such thing as military operations on the cheap: what is saved in cash will be paid for in blood.”
- Helmoed Heitman

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