SANDF “crucial” to disaster management nationally and regionally

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That the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is committed to doing whatever its resources allow when disaster strikes was underlined last month by way of a memorandum of collaboration (MoC) with the Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) Ministry.

Minister Thembi Nkadimeng, with outgoing defence and military veterans minister Thandi Modise on hand, said the MoC would strengthen South Africa’s ability to prevent, respond and recover from disasters.

The SANDF has a standing tasking – Operation Chariot – managed by its Joint Operations Division for disaster support and humanitarian assistance, not only in country, but to the region as evidenced by previous commitments to, among others, Lesotho and Mozambique. Chariot utilises 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 to assist after disasters such as the KwaZulu-Natal floods of 2022.

Expanding on the defence force’s role, the SANDF Directorate Corporate Communication (DCC) reports the military is “crucial” to disaster management, offering rapid response and relief operations during “natural calamities such as floods, storms and earthquakes”.

Equipped with specialised vehicles and aircraft, SANDF units can swiftly reach affected areas, conduct search and rescue missions and deliver essential supplies and medical aid. Additionally, SA Army Engineering Formation units repair infrastructure damage, facilitating restoration of essential services and aiding recovery.

The DCC notes SANDF support is extended to neighbouring countries by way of bilateral agreements and regional partnerships. This is seen as further demonstrating South Africa’s commitment to regional stability and co-operation.

“Beyond immediate response efforts, the SANDF engages in disaster preparedness and mitigation activities, conducts training exercises, develops contingency plans and collaborates with government agencies and international partners. This proactive approach enhances resilience and readiness for future emergencies, showcasing the SANDF’s dedication to safeguarding lives and supporting communities in times of crisis,” according to the DCC.

The CoGTA/DoDMV MoC will, among others, see a Disaster Reserves Assurance Fund (DRAF) created and joint development of emergency operations centres (EOCs) as well as what is termed district integrated industrial parks (DIIPs).