Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Military deployment a show of mercy not of might – SANDF

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) says additional reinforcements to bolster the military’s presence to enforce the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic will mostly concentrate on infrastructure, logistics and medical support.

This week President Cyril Ramaphosa informed Parliament of the deployment of more than 73 000 SANDF members.

In a letter to the joint standing committee of defence, Ramaphosa said: “The outbreak of Covid-19 continues to increase with reported cases across the Republic of South Africa … as a result, I have decided to deploy additional members of the SANDF consisting of the regular force, reserve force, and auxiliary force.”

Addressing a virtual meeting of the committee on Wednesday, Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told MPs the extra deployment was necessary because the 2 820 soldiers already deployed across the country are fighting fatigue after four weeks of daily duty.

Ten battalions have been deployed to each province, with two stationed in Gauteng.

Military leaders told MPs the newly deployed personnel will be used to set up field hospitals, triage units and quarantine sites in Covid-19 hotspots around the country in case the public health service becomes overwhelmed.

“Three field hospitals will be set up at 1Mil hospital in Pretoria, 2Mil in Cape Town and 3Mil hospital in Bloemfontein. The Bluff Command Centre will be used in Durban,” said Secretary of Defence Sam Gulube.

He added that the Pretoria showgrounds have also been earmarked as a field hospital site, while sites are still being considered in the Eastern Cape.

SANDF officials said major medical equipment including beds, mattresses and ventilators will have to be procured to set up ICUs. A million masks will be ordered. The military operation is expected to cost in the region of R4.5-billion.

MPs across political parties heaped praise on the SANDF for the work done so far in the lockdown effort.

Committee chairperson Cyril Xaba said the military effort is far greater than the South African public realise.

But there are still questions about military conduct during the lockdown period.

On alleged abuses of civilians by the SANDF members, military ombudsman Lieutenant-General Vusumuzi Masondo told MPs their office had received 33 complaints over the course of the past four weeks. Twenty of these complaints were from the public whereas the others were from political and non-governmental organisations.

Minister Mapisa-Nqakula told MPs she would not comment on the murder of an Alexandra man, Collins Khosa, who was allegedly beaten and killed at the hands of soldiers. But she described Khosa’s death as “an unfortunate incident”.

The South African police, military police, and military ombudsman are investigating the murder.

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Lester Kiewit
Lester Kiewit
Lester Kiewit is a Reporter, Journalist, and Broadcaster.

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

‘The children cannot cope any more’: Suicide in Calvinia highlights...

How Covid-19 has intensified the physical and emotional burdens placed on children’s shoulders.

Capitec Bank flies high above Viceroy’s arrow

The bank took a knock after being labelled a loan shark by the short seller, but this has not stymied its growth

More top stories

Farmers squeezed by big retailers

It may be beneficial for consumers when supermarkets push to get the lowest price from suppliers, but it can harm the farmers

Sisters pave the way with ecobricks

The durable bricks are made from 30% recycled plastic, some of which they collect from a network of 50 waste pickers

If the inflation-driving supply strain in the US lasts, it...

In South Africa, a strong trade surplus, buoyed by robust commodity prices, will cushion our economy against pressure arising from US policy

Covid-19: No vaccine booster shots needed yet

Scientists agree it is important to get most of the population vaccinated before giving booster jabs

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…