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SANDF deploys capabilities for KZN April floods it does not usually deploy

To address the requirement for rebuilding skills after the floods, 48 members of the Regional Works Unit KZN, were deployed to Operation Chariot on April 19, 2022. Picture: Major Mpho Mathebula and Lieutenant Phuti Badimo

To address the requirement for rebuilding skills after the floods, 48 members of the Regional Works Unit KZN, were deployed to Operation Chariot on April 19, 2022. Picture: Major Mpho Mathebula and Lieutenant Phuti Badimo

Published Jun 23, 2022

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Durban — Heavy rainfall and flooding in KwaZulu-Natal in April 2022 called for the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to deploy capabilities they did not usually deploy.

That was revealed by Joint Operations chief Lieutenant General Lucky Siphiwe Sangweni during his visit to Operation Chariot deployed troops.

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“This disaster has necessitated the deployment of capabilities we usually don't deploy - that is the Artisans from the Works Formation,” Sangweni said during his visit in May.

“Based on the assessment of the situation on the ground in KwaZulu-Natal, it became clear that the SANDF would have to tend to more than just the security situation, rescuing of people and provision of water. That we would also have to be ready to support rebuilding efforts, when they began,” Sangweni said on the significance of his decision to deploy a multi-disciplinary team to KZN.

To address the requirement for rebuilding skills after the floods, 48 members of the Regional Works Unit KZN, were deployed to Operation Chariot on April 19, 2022. Picture: Major Mpho Mathebula and Lieutenant Phuti Badimo

The SANDF said that to address the requirement for rebuilding skills after the floods, 48 members of the Regional Works Unit KZN, were deployed to Operation Chariot on April 19, 2022.

The SANDF said that the Regional Works Unit KZN, under the direction of Officer Commanding Colonel Marius van Wyk, is a unit that exists for the core function of maintenance, improvement and renovation of military facilities in the province.

It said that with an overall workforce of 218 personnel, the Regional Works Unit KZN consists of artisans with a variety of skill sets such as painters, electricians, bricklayers, carpenters, plumbers, plasterers, tilers and welders. Furthermore, this unit has members who are trained to be construction machine operators for machinery such as tractor loader backhoe, excavators, graders and skid steer loaders.

The officer in charge of the artisans, Major Thembekile Makhiqi, indicated that a total of 48 personnel are deployed for the SANDF disaster relief efforts in KZN for Operation Chariot; with reinforcements from Regional Works Units Western Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and Northern Cape.

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“Every trade is represented in this deployment. When the need arises, my members are employable to execute a task. Because we are a smaller group, we have been able to attend to the complaints of families and schools, which has allowed us to have a personal touch in our response to the pain felt by our people,” Makhiqi said.

Major Makhiqi expressed that, “as Regional Works, our ability to provide interim solutions for community members to gain access to either their homes or roads, gives me great pride. This deployment provided the opportunity for Regional Works to showcase its capability.”

To address the requirement for rebuilding skills after the floods, 48 members of the Regional Works Unit KZN, were deployed to Operation Chariot on April 19, 2022. Picture: Major Mpho Mathebula and Lieutenant Phuti Badimo

The 48 deployed members have been successful in:

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  • Clearing and rehabilitating roads in Inanda, Mzinyathi, KwaNdengezi, Mamdikazi and Ngcolosi;
  • Clearing mud and rubble around houses that had been buried in the mudslides;
  • Clearing mud from publicly utilised properties such as KwaNdengezi High School, Thornwood High School, Brettonwood High School and the Cetshwayo Roman Catholic Church, to name a few;
  • Assisting in the search for three missing members of the Gumbi family from Wushwini, who were swept away when a bulk water pipe flattened their homestead while they slept. One child was recovered the following morning, hanging on to a tree, a few hundred metres from the house. The missing three are yet to be recovered;
  • Assisting the Ntuli family from Ngcolosi in the search for the remains of their one family member who is yet to be recovered; and
  • Recovering the remains of three members of the Mdlalose family, who had 10 members swept away during the floods.
To address the requirement for rebuilding skills after the floods, 48 members of the Regional Works Unit KZN, were deployed to Operation Chariot on April 19, 2022. Picture: Major Mpho Mathebula and Lieutenant Phuti Badimo

The SANDF said the refocusing of force capabilities inward, due to an increased requirement for support for the various government departments, has had the effect of putting a spotlight on how advanced the SANDF is while showcasing why those specialised capabilities require expansion and investment.

“One of South Africa’s biggest priorities is to develop qualified artisans to support our economy. In order to successfully deliver on our country’s Strategic Infrastructure Projects, we need artisans.”

“In recognition of the specialised skills in the SANDF, the Department of Human Settlements has called on SANDF support on rebuilding projects in KZN, as a part of Operation Chariot. Over the period July to September 2022, a 15-member strong team, consisting of geotechnical engineers, structural engineers, plumbers, welders and electricians will be working with the eThekwini Municipality and the Department of Human Settlements to build permanent homes for flood-affected residents,” the SANDF said.

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