The use of soldiers to ensure compliance with revised level three lockdown regulations, including a beach ban, has been confirmed to Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) by a Presidential letter.
A Parliamentary statement has it the JSCD received the letter authorising “employment” of 2 122 soldiers from Cyril Ramaphosa on 8 January. The soldiers work in support of other government departments, including the SA Police Service (SAPS), to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Presidential missive is in line with defenceWeb reporting on 11 January that Western Cape Reserve Force unit General Jan Smuts was deployed “a week ago to patrol Western Cape beaches and general anti-crime ops until at least month-end”. The Ramaphosa letter confirms the “employment” ends on 31 January.
This particular utilisation of soldiers will cost the South African taxpayer R95 666 944.
“It is intended to preserve life, health and property in emergency or humanitarian relief operations in support of other government departments and in co-operation with the SA Police Service, to prevent crime and enforce restrictions under adjusted level three lockdown regulations.”
The statement sets out military “employment” since the initial COVID-19 one of 2 820 in March last year, followed by 76 000 deployed on 21 April and 20 000 deployed on 30 June 2020.
JSCD co-chair Cyril Xaba said the deployment of soldiers and other SANDF personnel, mainly from the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) “contributed greatly in the fight against COVID-19”.
Other missions the SANDF is currently part of, according to the Parliamentary Communication Service statement, see 200 mostly SA Navy personnel in the Mozambique Channel (Operation Copper), the peacekeeping effort in the Democratic Republic of the Congo involving 1 165 soldiers as part of the UN’s MONUSCO mission and 15 companies (Operation Corona) safeguarding South Africa’s land border, “especially now 20 ports of entry are closed to the general public”.