SANDF deployed until June to help in fight against Covid-19

SANDF soldiers in Mary Fitzgerald square in Newtown Johannesburg. Picture: Alaister Russell

By GENEVIEVE QUINTAL

The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) will be deployed until June 2020 to help curb the spread of Covid-19, at a cost of more than R641m.

This is according to a letter sent to the National Assembly speaker by President Cyril Ramaphosa earlier this week.

The country’s armed forces were deployed across the country at midnight on Thursday, to enforce the 21-day lockdown to battle the spread of virus, which has now claimed two lives in SA.

Stringent regulations not seen since the apartheid-era state of emergency have been put in place to contain the pandemic, which has infected more than 1,000 people in SA. These include the closure of liquor shops, bars and taverns, as well as schools, all borders to human traffic, and the withdrawal of public trains and buses.

For 21 days the economy will nearly come to a standstill, while SA citizens will be confined to their homes and their rights will be severely limited and policed. The SANDF will support the SA Police Service (SAPS) in enforcing these strict regulations nationwide.

However, there were reports on Friday from around the country of citizens ignoring the lockdown regulations.

In his letter to Thandi Modise, Ramaphosa said that in terms section 201(2) of the constitution and section 18(1) of the Defence Act, he had authorised the employment of 2,820 members of the SANDF for a “service of co-operation” with the police, to maintain law and order, support other state departments and to control the country’s border line to combat the virus.

Stringent regulations not seen since the apartheid-era state of emergency have been put in place to contain the pandemic

Members of the SANDF were deployed in all nine province, and will be employed until June 26.

Ramaphosa addressed the SANDF and police on Thursday. He told soldiers that their oath was not only to defend SA against war or insurrection, but also to defend South Africans against a danger such as the coronavirus.

He assured the soldiers that they were not entering hostile territory.

Ramaphosa said the lockdown was not a moment for violence (“skop, skiet en donner”), but for supporting South Africans through this difficult time.

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