South Africa’s top soldier General Solly Shoke is calling those who allegedly supplied old ration packs to soldiers on lockdown duty “saboteurs”.
His comment follows a fraud charge laid against suppliers of ration packs for the close to three thousand soldiers currently deployed nationally in support of police during the national state of disaster.
The fraud charge was laid with an unnamed SA National Defence Force (SANDF) supplier when troops preparing for one of two daily meals while on deployment found that supplied ration packs had passed their use-by date. In what appears to be an obvious attempt to hide this, new stickers with new expiry dates were put on the ration packs and delivered.
A SANDF statement did not give any details of how many “re-stickered” ration packs were found or if any troops became ill as a result of eating from them.
“A case was opened with the military police who appointed a dedicated team to investigate. Those found to be on the wrong side of the law must face the full might of the law,” the statement said.
Shoke is reported as saying if the allegations are proven true it is “tantamount to sabotage of the national defence force’s mandate to protect South Africa”.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, also the Commander-in-Chief of the SANDF, authorised the deployment 2 820 soldiers when the first three week period of coronavirus lockdown was imposed. This saw companies from infantry battalions deployed in each of South Africa’s nine provinces with Gauteng, now recognised as South Africa’s coronavirus epicentre, having a company each in the Johannesburg and Tshwane metros. The Reserve Force was subsequently called in and with the exception of the Tshwane Regiment (where Shoke made a support visit) no further information on which part-time regiments and in which provinces are doing lockdown duty has been made public.
A retired SANDF colonel, speaking on condition of anonymity, asked what happened to field kitchens.
“Are these now only for use during exercises at facilities like De Brug and Lohathla. I would imagine there are a good number in storage, probably at Tek Base in Centurion. Bringing them back to working condition should not present any problems and it then becomes a question of daily supply of fresh ingredients to provide soldiers with nutritious meals.”