Political players in South Africa are outraged at the death of 13 soldiers in combat in the Central African Republic and have questioned their troops' role in the war torn nation, saying they should return immediately.
President Jacob Zuma announced on Monday that 13 South African soldiers were killed and 27 wounded in clashes with rebels, while one was missing.
"South African soldiers inflicted heavy casualties among the attacking bandits," said Zuma.
[We] await the report on the suitability of the strength and supportability of the forces deployed in CAR
In January this year, Zuma authorised the deployment of up to 400 soldiers to CAR as part of a military co-operation agreement between the two countries, but only half have been deployed.
Addressing a press conference in Pretoria, the South African National Defence Force, (SANDF) chief, General Solly Shoke, said the troops will remain in CAR until there was a political agreement.
"Our troops are still there until there is a political arrangement. We will be advised. Our government will decide to pull out or not. Running away is not an option," he said.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) demanded the SANDF leadership to "do everything possible to protect the safety of the remaining soldiers and withdraw them at the earliest opportunity, especially now that President Bozizi, the leader they were supposed to be defending, has fled the scene, and the rebels have taken control of the capital city of Bangui".
The federation said they have "always argued that South Africa should be willing to send military forces to defend democratically elected governments' sovereignty and protect human rights, or on the other hand to
oppose imperialist interventions or foreign invaders, or free people from unelected dictatorships".
Leading legal commentator in South African Pierre de Vos wrote that what was "astonishing is that the public has not really been told what the strategic reasons for the deployment of the troops in CAR have been and questions (had been raised whether there) were other -perhaps private financial - reasons for the deployment".
Meanwhile, the South African Security Forces Union, said, while "they understand that the SANDF is under-funded, it remains the duty of the chief of the SANDF to assess the combat situation and provide necessary combat and logistic support to the forces".
"[We] await the report on the suitability of the strength and supportability of the forces deployed in CAR and if anybody was ignorant in that regard, tough action should be taken," SASFU president, Bheki Mvovo said.
But the Freedom Front Plus was more forthright about the situation in CAR.
"All soldiers should be removed from the area immediately to prevent further loss of life," Freedom Front Plus spokesman Pieter Groenewald said.
"It appears as if President Jacob Zuma had without careful consideration decided to deploy defence force members in the CAR without proper logistical and air support for such operations."
Groenewald said without this kind of support, South African troops could not take on peace operations.