LIVE | Covid-19: Ramaphosa addresses the nation on economic and social relief

SANDF mobilised in one of the biggest deployment in country’s history

President Cyril Ramaphosa has informed Parliament that he authorised the deployment of an additional 73 180 members of the South African 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 – tweeted by John Steenhuisen, DA leader in the National Assembly – Ramaphosa says the extra service members will be deployed until 26 June 2020 and will augment the 2 280 troops already deployed.

The deployment will cost the fiscus almost R5 billion. The deployment force will consist of regular, reserve and auxiliary forces.Steenhuisen says the development is “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 lockown.”

Helmoed-Romer Heitman, an independent defence analyst and correspondent for Jane’s Defence Weekly, says the deployment will 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 up. 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.”

Cyril Xaba, chairperson of the joint standing committee of defence has confirmed the authenticity of the letter.

– Pieter du Toit