Lieutenant General Zola Dabula, SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Surgeon General and the man in overall charge of the military medical contribution to the coronavirus campaign, appears to be keeping his cards close to the chest.
This can be drawn from currently stonewalled efforts of the SA National Defence Union (Sandu) to establish exactly what the status is with coronavirus screening and testing in the SANDF.
The union’s national secretary Pikkie Greeff told defenceWeb: “As far as we know there is some testing at some bases for soldiers and their families moving in and out of bases. Our understanding is this is not in every base “.
The frustration of the largest defence trade union in the country was echoed by Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Kobus Marais, the party’s shadow defence and military veterans minister. Like Greeff, he has “heard” of testing for coronavirus.
“Worryingly, I do not know and haven’t been able to establish the extent of testing. I’m told some deployed soldiers tested positive, but do not have confirmation,” he said last week.
Greeff maintains the SANDF is obliged to disclose its own testing results and status.
“As far as we know there is a protocol issued by the Surgeon General for dealing with COVID-19 in the military community. It basically mirrors that of the Department of Health. We’re attempting to get our hands on it because it seems there is widespread confusion among ordinary rank and file as to the military command’s obligations in this respect,” he said adding the military reported three positive cases early in April – “after that, stats stopped”.
defenceWeb has requested information on coronavirus screening and testing from the Department of Defence (DoD), SANDF corporate communications and the communications office of SAMHS (SA Military Health Service). At the time of publication, no response was forthcoming.
According to the national Department of Health, there are 16 433 positive coronavirus cases in South Africa as of today (Tuesday, 19 May) with 7 298 recoveries and 286 deaths. Close to half a million South Africans have been tested for coronavirus.