Opposition parties were accused on Tuesday (23 April) of seeking to score political points from the death of South African soldiers in the Central African Republic (CAR).
"This is done without any shame or kindness," Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told the National Assembly in Cape Town.
She insisted there was nothing untoward about the deployment of soldiers in the CAR.
Thirteen soldiers were killed in a battle with Seleka rebels outside the CAR capital of Bangui on 23 March.
"The spokespersons of the DA almost thanked their gods for handing them the gift of the loss of our soldiers so close to the next general elections," she said.
The minister accused opposition parties of distorting the truth about why SA National Defence Force (SANDF) troops were deployed to the country.
The opposition only saw how the deaths would justify the resuscitation of calls for a motion of no confidence in a democratically elected government. She accused the media of helping distort the facts.
"Not once have the reports about this mission ever emphasised the heroism of our soldiers, selecting to deliberately project an image of a defeated force without giving due recognition to the valour of the SANDF troops who fought for nine hours against a group of 3000, repelled the threat, killing over 700 and suffering minimal casualties."
Deployment above board
Mapisa-Nqakula insisted the deployment was above board and done in terms of a memorandum of understanding with the government of Bangui.
"Let me assure all the people that South Africa's involvement in the Central African Republic, just as was the case in Burundi, DRC, Sudan and elsewhere, has been in pursuance of our international obligation to ensure stability and peace in the continent," she said.
Mapisa-Nqakula said the United Nations expressed shock after DA MP David Maynier wrote to one of its representatives. Maynier asked if she had lied when she stated the UN had asked South Africa to maintain its military presence in the CAR after the security situation in that country deteriorated.
"It is a desperate attempt at finding something, anything at all, to embarrass the South African government and its respected standing in the UN," she said.
Mapisa-Nqakula said the only reason additional troops were sent to the CAR was to protect military trainers and assets.
"This was very important because a contingent of unarmed SANDF trainers and South African government assets were in the CAR. It was also important to ensure that South African military assets in the CAR do not fall into the wrong hands."
She said that South Africa would continue to enter into multilateral agreements to ensure stability on the continent.
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