Deployment of additional SANDF to fight Covid-19 draws mixed reactions
Durban - THERE have been mixed reactions to the demployment of over 2 000 SANDF members to help fight Covid-19.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said the 2 122 members would support other government departments in order to preserve life, health or property in emergency or humanitarian relief operations and work in co-operation with the SAPS to prevent crime and enforce restrictions under the adjusted level 3 lockdown regulations.
The deployment will run until January 31, at a cost of R95 666 944.
Despite the deployment being done on December 29 last year, it was only made public on Wednesday by the South African Government News Agency.
The most recent Covid-19-related deployment follows an initial deployment of 2 820 SANDF members on March 25 last year, 76 000 deployed on April 21, and 20 000 deployed on June 30 in the same year.
The forces join those already deployed on various other missions, including 200 SANDF personnel on a maritime patrol mission in the Mozambique Channel (dubbed Operation Copper), the peacekeeping effort in the Democratic Republic of the Congo involving 1 165 soldiers forming part of the United Nations Organisation’s Stabilising Mission, and 15 companies (Operation Corona) which serve to safeguard South Africa’s borderline, especially now that 20 ports of entry have been closed to the general public.
The DA spokesperson for defence and military veterans Kobus Marais said the objective was to assist with logistical and medical staff assistance where the SAPS failed to do the relevant work and their constitutional responsibilities.
He said he supported use of the SANDF for humanitarian relief and where natural disasters were faced.
“We do not support at all the deployment of SANDF to assist SAPS to harass citizens in neighbourhoods and on beaches. We believe that this only emphasises the failure of SAPS and is infringing on the constitutional rights of our citizens,” Marais said.
He added that the SANDF should preferably be left to best do its duties to protect our land, sea and air borders and prevent unwanted persons and goods to enter or leave our borders illegally.
“The vagueness of the deployment approval implies the soldiers can be used and abused anywhere the SAPS fails dismally. The current deployment details will hopefully be revealed on my relevant questions submitted in Parliament.
“We know the approved budget of R95 million is not an extra allocation, and will add to the billions of rand over expenditures of the SANDF. This will deprive our soldiers of essential resources and equipment.”
IFP portfolio committee on defence and military veterans spokesperson Nsikayezwe Cebekhulu welcomed the deployment because the SANDF would assist and bolster health services.
“From my understanding, some of those in the SANDF are doctors and nurses while others will be deployed to ensure law and order. The behaviour of the public needs to be monitored during the lockdown to ensure the virus does not spread,” Cebekhulu said.