The “employment” of soldiers and other military personnel as part of the national effort to combat coronavirus has been extended until the end of September with a reduction in numbers of more than 50 000.
The announcement in the form of a letter from SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Commander-in-Chief President Cyril Ramaphosa dated 30 June was circulated as part of Parliament’s Announcements, Tablings and Committee Reports bulletin on 2 July.
The military is readying itself for an even longer utilisation period as part of Operation Notlela with Joint Operations headquarters informing all nine its provincial joint operations headquarters the operation is extended to year-end (31 December 2020). This is in preparation for logistic support to soldiers and other musterings on the ground with a letter signed by the GOC Joint Operational (Sic) headquarters indicating “all logistical (rations and fuel) and administration arrangements to be in place to endure no interruption in service delivery after 26 July”.
In his letter to Parliament Ramaphosa indicates he is extending “the employment of 20 000 members of the SANDF for service in co-operation with the SA Police Service (SAPS) to maintain law and order, support other State departments and control our border lines to combat the spread of COVID-19 in all nine provinces”.
In March, the C-in-C authorised employment of 2 820 military personnel for COVID-19 lockdown and related duties. This was increased to 76 000 by a 21 April Presidential missive.
The extension of Operation Notlela will, according to Ramaphosa, cost the South African taxpayer R1.5 billion.
Apart from lockdown patrols and border protection, an ongoing SANDF tasking as per Operation Corona, military personnel from the four services – air force, army, military health and navy – will support the National Department of Health (NDOH) with COVID-19 management. This includes provision of field hospitals, medical screening and quarantine facilities.
The military is also tasked to assist Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma’s Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs) department in the government effort “to maintain or enhance the living conditions of South Africans” by, for example, water supply or engineering services.
Soldiers will continue to support police in enforcing lockdown regulations and they will also be utilised to provide additional border patrol with the SAS Military Health Service (SAMHS) boosting Port Health operations at official air, land and sea ports of entry.