Soldiers and other national defence force personnel are not part of current government COVID-19 enforcement regulations, extended until 15 May by Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma this week.
South Africans have been under lockdown at various levels for over a year – 385 days to date – with soldiers and police deployed nationally to ensure curfews, social distancing and other measures to prevent coronavirus spread were enforced.
The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) codenamed its contribution to the overall government effort to contain the pandemic Operation Notlela. At one stage last year President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised the “employment” of more than 80 000 uniformed personnel from the Regular and Reserve forces as well as auxiliaries, mostly in the form of volunteers with medical skills and training.
When Notlela ended on 30 September last year all deployed regiments and units returned to base until a second national military operation – Ligcolo – with around two thousand SANDF personnel involved, started. This operation, according to the SANDF Directorate: Corporate Communication “terminated” on 28 February. Ahead of this, two almost ad-hoc, smaller “employments” of military personnel came from the Office of The President.
Police are still active on crime prevention in the Cape Flats area of the Western Cape where soldiers were until the end of January an active component in providing back-up to search and seizure operations.