Call for soldiers to be part of emergency water supply in two provinces


With electioneering hotting up ahead of the 29 May national and provincial election, the Democratic Alliance (DA) potentially stole a march on the majority ANC (African National Congress) calling for the national defence force to be part of “rescuing” the Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces from water shortages.

The call, made by the party’s chief whip Siviwe Gwarube, is one of a five point intervention plan for the two provinces.
In a statement Gwarube “urgently calls” on President Cyril Ramaphosa “to mobilise SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to make use of their logistical infrastructure and water tankers, as a short term measure, to ensure that those residents most affected by water losses are able to get clean drinking water until the water crisis has been solved”.
Government, respected defence analyst Helmoed Heitman points out, often uses its men and women in uniform to assist South Africans.
“It’s ops normal to call on the military when things come unglued and it’s not only in South Africa,” he said, adding continued use of the SANDF, whether personnel or equipment for this type of deployment/employment, can “only overstretch” the organisation.
“It will lead to an implosion sooner or later – probably sooner given the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) adventure,” he noted in reference to South Africa’s commitment to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) mission in the central African country.
Soldiers, specifically engineers from the SA Army Reserve Force, were despatched to areas of the Vaal River four years ago to assist with rehabilitation of water and sewage infrastructure. The involvement of the Sappers followed a call by then Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni telling the National Assembly (NA) the SANDF would be roped in for infrastructure repair including pump and sewage treatment stations and plants. Soldiers would also guard the infrastructure to prevent theft and vandalism. The deployment took place under the Operation Prosper banner, which provides for safety and security operations.
If Gwarube’s suggestion finds any traction, it is unlikely to be executed as a safety and security tasking and should be an Operation Chariot one, a retired Reserve Force officer noted “because it will be more humanitarian assistance than safety and security”.