Minister Modise commits SANDF to disaster assistance

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A memorandum of collaboration (MoC) entered into this week will, according to Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) Minister Thembi Nkadimeng, strengthen South Africa’s ability to prevent, respond and recover from disasters.

The Memorandum of Collaboration intends to ensure that CoGTA and the Department of Defence (DoD) jointly use their resources to manage manmade and natural disasters properly.

Government publication SAnews, reports the MoC committed to by Nkadimeng and Cabinet colleague, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise, contains “key” collaboration areas. These include establishing a Disaster Reserves Assurance Fund (DRAF), joint development of emergency operations centres (EOCs) and what is termed district integrated industrial parks (DIIPs).

The MoC will see CoGTA involve Community Work Programme (CWP) participants in disaster preparedness with the Department of Defence safeguarding the nation. SAnews further has it the SA Forces Institute (SAFI) will manage emergency strategic reserves and procurement in times of disaster. SAFI was previously best known as the “retail arm” of the SANDF with supermarket-type operations in major military areas such as Thaba Tshwane in the Gauteng province and Tempe in the Free State province. Officially, SAFI is the business entity of the SANDF.

The MoC will further see what Nkadimeng reportedly said was the revitalisation of the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC), responsible for co-ordinating disaster management interventions.

“We believe that this MoC will go a long way to ensure that reaction to disasters is quick and efficient because we will be pulling resources together, and the skills found in Defence will be very handy in this area,” Nkadimeng said at the launch.

She emphasised the catastrophic impact of climate change, referring to it as a nightmare in South Africa, with an increasing number of natural disasters due to climate change.

Nkadimeng also spoke about KwaZulu-Natal, which is prone to floods and where the South African National Defence Force was called to assist.

Modise said she believes that government needs to be more organised to deal with disasters. She stated that Treasury is on board and will provide resources to train military personnel for disaster management.

“How much a disaster will cost will not compare to the cost of life. Therefore, we will be talking to Treasury about that… But with us, we’ll want to make sure that we don’t lose South African lives because there’s a shortage of money,” Modise said.

The SANDF, by way of a standing operation Chariot managed by its Joint Operations Division, is committed to disaster support and humanitarian assistance. This has seen defence force elements, ranging from SA Army engineers through to SA Air Force (SAAF) helicopter flight crews and ground support as well as SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) operations medics and others assist in country post disasters such as the KwaZulu-Natal floods of 2022.