Extra military deployment of 73 000 for coronavirus campaign

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“An additional 73 180 SA National Defence Force (SANDF) personnel” are to be deployed to help combat the coronavirus pandemic, President Cyril Ramaphosa this week told Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD).

This, he tells JSCD co-chair Cyril Xaba in a letter dated 21 April, is for “service in co-operation with the SA Police Service (SAPS) to maintain law and order, support other State departments and control our border line to combat the spread of COVID-19 in all nine provinces”.

The Presidential letter informs Xaba and his committee the additional military personnel will be employed between 2 April and 26 June 2020 as “the outbreak of COVID-19 continues to increase with reported cases across the Republic of South Africa.”

The cost of putting over seventy-three thousand military personnel on South Africa’s streets and roads is given by Ramaphosa as R4 590 393 940.

Xaba told Radio 702 most of this will be salaries which SANDF personnel would have drawn anyway, but there will be a slight increase in spending on subsistence and travel (S&T) and other costs. He said calling up Reserves will cost extra, but not much.

“The money will be found in the department budget. Any overruns would be picked up by Treasury,” Xaba said.

The “employment” will see uniformed personnel from the Regular and Reserve forces as well as what the Commander-in-Chief says is an “auxiliary force” deployed.

defenceWeb is led to believe the “auxiliary” when defined in terms of the 2002 Defence Act is a civilian recruited to support the national defence force. An example is last week’s call for volunteers, including doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals.

According to the latest available annual report for the Department of Defence (DoD), the human resource strength was 74 510 in the 2018/19 financial year. This includes the four services – Air Force, Army, Military Health and Navy – as well as, among others, the defence ministry, foreign relations, defence inspectorate, the Chaplain General, the defence secretariat and defence intelligence.

At commencement of the National State of Disaster on 26 March, which put South Africa into an almost total lockdown, Ramaphosa informed Parliament he was “employing” 2 820 soldiers to assist police and other law enforcement agencies, primarily the national, provincial and metro traffic police. This was subsequently boosted by the addition of some Reserve Force elements. With the exception of Tshwane Regiment, visited by SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke, no names of Reserve units or regiments have been made public.

The Joint Standing Committee on Defence will meet today to discuss  Ramaphosa’s letter and the lockdown deployment.



“Briefings will include a progress report on enforcement of the lockdown and how implementation is proceeding. This will cover provision of protective equipment for SANDF members, effectiveness of co-ordination with other security agencies in enforcing the lockdown as well as consideration of fraud allegations stemming from claims of expired meals given to military personnel by suppliers,” Xaba said.