According to reports, President Cyril Ramaphosa has sent a letter to Parliament’s defence committee co-chairperson, Cyril Xaba, requesting an additional 73180 soldiers to be deployed until 26 June.
Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula had confirmed the validity of the document and added that action would be taken against Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen for allegedly ‘leaking’ sensitive information relating to issues of national security.
Reports state that Steenhuisen originally shared the document on social media and later questioned the government’s militaristic approach, saying:
“We need to understand why such a big deployment is used, where these troops are going to be deployed and for what purpose. We’ve already seen some disturbing reports emerging about abuse and the like.”
The deployment of more soldiers raises some concerns as South Africans are expecting lockdown to end on 30 April.
Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans explained that the laws put in place are there to protect citizens, government needs to tighten enforcement and make sure that South Africans understand fully the dangers of the virus.
She said, “the rate at which the infections has gone up – you will realise that at some point – we might need the kind of human resource deployed like we have never seen before. We are likely to see an escalation of the numbers.”
“Other countries have even better medical and health facilities than we have. Who are we to believe that what has happened in Italy or Spain will not happen in South Africa? We need to be ready with our response as the defence force.”
“An enforcement of the law is what we have been doing in the support of the police, but there are several other government departments which will require our support as the SANDF”
The SANDF has the following tasks:
- Support the police in the enforcement of lockdown regulations.
- Support and work with the national Department of Health with the management of COVID-19.
- Support the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to maintain or enhance the living conditions of the population.
- Enhance border safeguarding.
More specific tasks include:
- Joint roadblocks/vehicle control points.
- Joint mobile and foot patrols.
- Joint cordon and search operations.
- Medical screening.
- Essential service delivery, e.g. water supply.
- Border safeguarding.
- Additional border patrols involving the army, air force, and navy.
- SA Military Health Services (SAMHS) support.
The revised expenditure resulting from the army’s deployment in the COVID-19 fight now stands at more than R4.5 billion.