As of last Wednesday, Operation Notlela, the national defence force’s commitment to the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa, ended, with 30 September the final day of military “employment” authorised by Presidential authority.
Soldiers, medics, sappers and other military musterings who found themselves patrolling streets, screening and testing as well as providing potable water and the necessary logistic support for all taskings are now confined to operational bases, according to a SA National Defence Force (SANDF) corporate communications directorate statement.
There are around 8 000 military personnel still on Notlela deployment with two thousand operationally active at any one time. Indications are this arrangement will continue until level one of the national lockdown is lifted.
Apart from the logistic effort involved in returning to home bases, all that remains at present of the military involvement are pending court cases, at least one of which could turn into a murder charge. This is in connection with the death of Alexandra resident Collins Khosa, after allegedly being beaten by soldiers on Good Friday. Other pending court cases involve shootings in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga. More than 30 incidents of soldier brutality and violence during the lockdown are being investigated by the Military Ombud, retired three-star general Vusi Masondo.
CSANDF General Solly Shoke and the Military Command Council (MCC) thanked “all Department of Defence (DoD) members who responded to the call by President Cyril Ramaphosa to deploy in the fight against COVID-19”. The call, according to the statement, was heeded by the regular force, Reserve Force and Public Service Act personnel who “worked tirelessly to safeguard the people and our nation”.
There was also a vote of thanks for the “hundreds of volunteers” and a reminder that “this disaster again proved the necessity for a national defence force to act as an assurance for South Africa during war and in peacetime”.
The SANDF is ready to assist should there be a second wave of the virus.