An indication of what soldiers did during the national lockdown comes from the Joint Operations Division of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), which made available statistics for the final month of its direct involvement in the national state of disaster response.
Operation Notlela, meaning broadly “lock in” in Sesotho, at its height saw more than 80 000 uniformed personnel, including volunteers, “employed” (the word used by Commander-in-Chief President Cyril Ramaphosa) to ensure the coronavirus wreaked minimum havoc and death on South Africa.
Soldiers were deployed in support of police in enforcing lockdown regulations with other musterings, notably engineers and medics of various disciplines, also contributing.
In September, at the lowest lockdown level, this saw soldiers assist in arrests for contravening lockdown rules (128) and the issuing of 180 traffic offence fines. Soldiers were also involved in responding to 187 incidents of drinking in public. Possession of 90 kg of dagga and finding 133 mandrax tablets were among drug offences soldiers were part of dealing with.
In monetary terms, soldiers contributed to police and traffic law enforcement, issuing fines totalling R71 600 in September with lockdown rule contravention fines totalling R84 300 issued.
The “employment” of the SANDF in the national state of disaster ended on 30 September with all military personnel involved returning to their respective bases. There was, at the time of publishing, no indication of any further utilisation of the national defence force in ongoing government efforts to fight COVID-19. defenceWeb has heard some SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) members could find themselves doing duty at ports of entry assisting Department of Health officials with coronavirus screening and testing.