Heavy rains and subsequent flooding has seen soldiers from 2 SA Infantry Battalion having to call an abrupt halt to jungle training in the Port St Johns area of the Eastern Cape.
In addition to salvaging and rebuilding the rudimentary bush camp used by soldiers during jungle training, the Zeerust-based soldiers are also putting shoulder to the wheel to assist locals whose lives have been disrupted by heavy rains and subsequent flash floods.
According Siphiwe Dlamini, Department of Defence (DoD) head of communications, “a SA National Defence Force (SANDF) rescue team has been dispatched to affected areas and will work with other disaster teams to help people affected by floods”. He added people will be moved to higher ground and placed in identified “safe areas and shelters”.
The soldiers are now part of the disaster management team set up by the OR Tambo District Municipality in the wake of heavy rains over its area of jurisdiction. Two years ago similar bad weather saw a local disaster declared in terms of the National Disaster Management Act. Then and apparently now, the district municipality co-ordinates and manages response to the natural disaster. This includes relief, recovery and reconstruction. Port St Johns local municipality, the SANDF and the SA Police Service along with the district municipality is the nucleus of the disaster management team.
The soldiers are currently busy with jungle training ahead of deployment to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where they will be the next South African battalion in the MONUSCO Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), the others coming from Malawi and Tanzania.
While not confirmed at the time of publication the 2 SAI contingent are expected to report to the SA Army mobilisation centre outside Bloemfontein in the next few weeks for final preparations, including a course on SEA (sexual exploitation and abuse) ahead of flying to central Africa early in June.