Reserves making important contributions to Vaal River project


    The Project Vaal River deployment of full- and part-time soldiers to arrest the apparently unchecked flow of untreated sewage into a major water source is progressing positively, Chief Defence Reserves Major General Roy Andersen said after a visit to Emfuleni Local Municipality on the Vaal River at the weekend.


    One of the senior officers accompanying the two-star general was Brigadier General Gerhard Kamffer, Director Army Reserves. This because the deployment is a totally land force based one with the SA Army Engineer Formation providing the bulk of the manpower. The full- and part-time soldiering combination is  a manifestation of the national defence force’s “One Force Concept” providing guard and sentry services to prevent theft and vandalism of waste water treatment and pumping infrastructure. The Army presence is supported by a South African Military Health Service (SAMHS) component.


    Andersen noted the deployment is currently a project and cannot be referred to as an operation until upgraded by the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).


    Regular and Reserve Force Army troops have been deployed to the area since November, with the SA Army Engineer Formation, including its Reserve Force units, furnishing members as part of urgent efforts to stem the unabated flow of sewerage into the Vaal and affecting communities in Boipatong, Sebokeng, Sharpeville and Vereeniging. Army technical teams and guards are tackling ageing sewage infrastructure as well as vandalism and criminality hampering its proper functioning to rehabilitate the Vaal River system, which supplies water to Gauteng, South Africa’s economic powerhouse.


    Army Reserves reskilled in water purification and community development and liaison under the auspices of Project Koba-Tlala, “fighting hunger” in Setswana, are utilised. Additionally the Army Reserves Pool of Specialists contributes in the areas of Civil Military Co-operation (CIMIC), marketing and communication, as well as consulting engineering and project management.


    Andersen said feedback given to the Military Command Council (MCC) to date on the project’s successes has been well received, especially regarding the positive image portrayed by project officer commanding Colonel Andries Mahapa, the OC of 1 Construction Regiment, and his soldiers in bulletins and media reports aired and published on television, in print and online. There are at present about 170 Reserve Force members deployed as guards and sentries, with 30 engaged in water purification. More Reserve Force members will report, bringing the part-time component up to the 500 mark in total.


    Captain Jacques de Vries, CIMIC specialist in the office of the Directorate Army Reserves, confirmed the Reserve Force component contributing to Project Vaal River flies the flag proudly in the Emfuleni local municipality and continues with engineering solutions, Project Koba-Tlala community-based initiatives and CIMIC tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) in joint planning with civilians, civilian entities and agencies to co-ordinate responses to the sewage crisis. This has already improved infrastructure service delivery to embattled communities in the region.


    “Challenges faced by the SANDF in this undertaking are not lost on Andersen, who gained valuable insights from Mahapa and his subordinates regarding sanitary conditions, ablutions, transport, accommodation, medical support and rules of engagement (ROEs) underpinning all actions moving forward.


    “The Reserve presence promotes and markets the contribution made by the part-time citizen soldier and Chief Defence Reserves is important in providing strategic direction for effective application of specialist capabilities brought by the Reserves not only for combat but also reconstruction and development as shown on the banks of the Vaal,” De Vries said.