SA Air Force leads with Op Chariot disaster relief in Limpopo


Disaster relief in the wake of torrential rains and floods in seven of South Africa’s nine provinces is the latest tasking to be added to the growing list of work assigned to the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).

Soldiers and, according to SANDF Chief General Rudzani Maphwanya, engineers, are assisting Eskom with “rehabilitation” as part of the national state of disaster (SoD) declared around South Africa’s ongoing electricity crisis. The second is humanitarian assistance in the ongoing La Niña weather phenomenon.

A rescue, conducted under the standing Operation Chariot tasking to provide humanitarian assistance during times of natural or other disasters, saw a SA Air Force (SAAF) medium transport helicopter in action over the Letaba River in the Tzaneen area of Limpopo this week.

The rotary-wing aircraft, on the strength of Air Force Base (FB) Swartkop unit, 17 Squadron, safely hoisted two “community residents” from an island in the raging river. They were reportedly stranded there for three days as the river flooded and burst its banks threatening farms, settlements and villages. They were delivered to Tzaneen Clinic and treated for “dehydration and related conditions” after the casevac, with ER24 paramedics assisting.

The Letaba river sortie, according to Brigadier General Andries Mahapa from the SANDF Directorate Corporate Communication (DCC), is standard for Operation Chariot. When the operation is active, it sees various SANDF components working in concert with government agencies and departments at national, provincial and local level as well as the private sector to alleviate disruptions caused by natural events, such as the current La Niña global weather phenomenon with its above normal rainfall.