Civilian volunteers step up for Op Notlela


With the end of the first “employment” term of South Africa’s military in the form of the Regular and Reserve forces along with the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) auxiliary looming large, indications are some 600 South Africans volunteered to be part of the military response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Commander-in-Chief of the national defence force, President Cyril Ramaphosa, on 21 April informed Parliament, via a letter to its Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) that more than 73 000 military personnel would be employed in co-operation with the SA Police Service (SAPS) to maintain law and order, support other State departments and control the country’s borderline to combat the spread of COVID-19 in all nine provinces.

That employment term ends this Friday (26 June) and at the time of publishing there was no indication of an extension or any possible reduction in the numbers of military personnel deployed on Operation Notlela (“lock up” in Sotho).

The national defence force has not made public actual deployment numbers and the Reserve Force indicated more than 13 000 of its personnel strength of about 22 000 are currently deployed. The border protection tasking Operation Corona is one with Notlela the other.

defenceWeb is reliably informed over 600 South Africans put their hands up to volunteer for the auxiliaries during the National State of Disaster, now extended to July 25.

According to the Defence Act (2002) “the Minister may establish and designate for the purpose of support to the Defence Force, such auxiliary service as may be necessary” and auxiliary service members serve for a period determined by the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans (currently Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula).

Among those who volunteered, a defenceWeb source said, are a sizeable number of healthcare professionals, including doctors and nurses. Other skills volunteers brought to Operation Notlela include culinary, mechanical and engineering disciplines.

Volunteers submitted details electronically to the SANDF Human Resources Division, under the leadership of Vice Admiral Elias Kubu. They were then assigned to specific tasks in the four SANDF services with healthcare going to the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) while chefs and others with food preparation and handling skills found themselves assigned to units and other kitchens and messes as examples.