Operation Chariot in full swing in KZN


The three-star general heading the Joint Operations Division of the national defence force acknowledges the men and women deployed in flood-stricken KwaZulu-Natal are not disaster management trained but “they are soldiers and go where others can’t”.

Lieutenant General Siphiwe Sangweni called on full-time and Reserve Force soldiers and specialist musterings in the SA Army Engineer Formation to see for himself what is being done on the ground to assist people in the broadest sense. The deployment, under the standing Operation Chariot to provide humanitarian assistance, has seen up to 10 000 SA National Defence Force (SANDF) personnel committed to flood-ravaged parts of the province. There is no indication from the force’s Directorate: Corporate Communication (DCC) of when the deployment, which started in the second week of April, will end.

Speaking to infantrymen and women from Johannesburg Regiment at a temporary base in lower South Coast town Port Shepstone, Sangweni said soldiers go where others cannot. “Where there are mudslides, volcanoes or disasters, we must go because soldiers are designed to withstand hardships,” Major Mpho Matebula reports him telling the Reserve Force unit.

The “going” to date has seen soldiers wielding shovels to make roads passable, doing survey and other civil engineering tasks to bring roads and bridges to the state where pedestrians can safely use them; assisting NGOs (non-government organisations) to deliver food and other assistance, and ensuring a potable supply of water to areas where there is none. The Gonnema Regiment, formerly the Cape Town Highlanders, is another Reserve Force unit currently on the lower South Coast tasked with mopping-up and assisting those in need.

A contingent of soldiers from Middelburg, Mpumalanga-based 4 SA Infantry (SAI) Battalion exchanged assault rifled for shovels in Ntuzuma adjacent to KwaMashu. They cleared roads of mud left in the wake of last month’s torrential rain, reports Staff Sergeant Gladness Mawela.

Elsewhere in the province, specialist Sappers set up a water purification plant to ensure potable water is available.

Water is drawn from a source, in this instance a dam, to sedimentation tanks and then through filtration to the purifier, reports Captain Tshegofatso Gwai and Corporal Lorraine Chamba. After purification, water is stored in a bladder tank and drawn to a sachet plant for packaging. After purification water is being tested for pH, electrical conductivity, temperature as well as chlorine, iron, aluminium and nitrate content in dissolved units.

Water samples are taken by SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) specialist staff for laboratory testing. Packaging water in sachets only begins once laboratory approval is given.  The plant produces a thousand 500 ml sachets per hour without rejects or faults.

Packaged water is distributed by 17 Maintenance Unit for communities and deployed troops.