SAMHS in the vanguard of COVID-19 battle


After six months as Surgeon General of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), Lieutenant General Zola Dabula can be said to have come through “basics” with flying colours.

As head of the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS), the fourth working arm of the national defence force, he has been a main driver of the military effort going into combatting COVID-19 and helping stop the spread of coronavirus.

People serving under him were an integral part of the Wuhan mission that brought South Africans home from the international epicentre of the disease in China. He also oversaw and approved the initial deployment of SAMHS personnel to assist national Department of Health officials with coronavirus screening at major ports of entry into South Africa.

His attention – and that of his senior and junior officers as well as the rank and file – is now on testing soldiers and other military personnel for coronavirus.

Three SANDF personnel have to date tested positive for COVID-19, SAnews reports.

Dabula is reported by the government news agency as saying 125 tests were done on 184 suspected coronavirus cases in the SANDF. Fifteen test results were outstanding and three are said to be inconclusive.

The SANDF has identified suitable facilities for both quarantine and mass isolation. These will be used if an envisaged overflow from military hospitals and sickbays becomes a reality. SAnews did not provide the names of identified facilities.

South Africa’s top military medic dismissed reports of SANDF personnel being issued with sub-standard protective equipment.

“There are malicious and irresponsible statements doing the rounds to the effect we (SAMHS) are giving members in the frontline sub-standard protective gear, including thermal scanners, masks and gloves among others. This is unfair and unfounded,” Dabula said, pointing out the military medical service was “working around the clock to hinder and inhibit this fast advancing destructive and unseen enemy”.