President Cyril Ramaphosa has informed Parliament he had authorised
the deployment of an additional 73 180 members of the SA National Defence Force
(SANDF) to assist the police in battling the spread of Covid-19.
In a letter to the Joint
Standing Committee on Defence – which was tweeted by DA leader in the National
Assembly John Steenhuisen – Ramaphosa said the extra troops would be deployed
until 26 June 2020, augmenting the 2 280 who were already deployed.
The deployment will cost the fiscus almost R5 billion and it will
consist of regular, reserve and auxiliary forces.
Steenhuisen said the
development was “very worrying”.
“This seems to suggest
that the ‘hard lockdown’ will be enforced longer, beyond next Friday’s
deadline. We can’t extend the lockdown into perpetuity. I would rather spend
the money on testing and tracing to make sure we know exactly what the extent
of the virus is.
“This [the deployment] is not a good sign. Friday is going to
be a turning point when people get their reduced salaries, debit orders start
going off … we hope the soldiers aren’t being called up to enforce the lockdown.”
The committee’s chairperson, Cyril
Xaba, has confirmed the authenticity of the letter.
“The committee has
received the letter and will be discussing the contents thereof on Wednesday.
Four other letters were also received dealing with the extension of deployments
in the DRC as well as a deployment in the Mozambican Channel and the Wuhan
repatriation,” he told News24.
Helmoed Romer-Heitman, who is an
independent defence analyst and correspondent for Jane’s Defence Weekly, said
the deployment would rank among the biggest in the country’s history.
“The biggest I can recall
was during the election in 1994, and that was certainly bigger than anything
during the Bush War. It also seems that almost the entire SANDF is being called
“The total complement is something like 73 000, 74 000, so
this is all of it. The Reserve Force takes it up to 85 000, 86 000 service
members. So, this is a biggie.”
The letter was made public just
moments before Ramaphosa was due to address the country at 8:30pm on Tuesday.
Cyril Xaba, chairperson of the joint standing committee of defence has confirmed the authenticity of the letter.
“The committee has received the letter and will be discussing the contents thereof on Wednesday. Four other letter were also received, dealing with the extension of deployments in the DRC, as well as a deployment in the Mozambican Channel and the Wuhan repatriation,” he told News24.