While the country awaits President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address on Monday evening on the next move for the country, sources from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) have confirmed that the army has been ordered to prepare for a possible deployment, though the army has said it will be working in more of a supportive role.
The SANDF said in a tweet that people should “remain calm”.
The SANDF would like to confirm that the soldiers seen in Johannesburg is part of the SANDF's mobilisation phase as part of normal preparations for support to Government and it is not a deployment as speculated. The SANDF would like to appeal to the public to remain calm.
— SA National Defence Force (@SANDFCorpEvents) March 23, 2020
A South African Army Infantry Formation warning order which The Citizen has seen suggests that two sub-units of a battalion will be working in Gauteng. One sub-unit will be posted to each of South Africa’s remaining eight provinces, according to an order dated March 22, signed by Brigadier-General Bayanda Mkula.
The army will give assistance to the police and the forces are encouraged to execute tasks, such as searches and cordons, in concert.
Pics As Received: South African National Defense Force is readying troops to help the police curb the spread of coronavirus, one of a series of measures President Cyril Ramaphosa is considering to deal with the outbreak.#CoronavirusInSA #Covid19SA #Army pic.twitter.com/JecmCrpGYy
— Vision Tactical (@visiontactical) March 23, 2020
Concerns have been raised that a national “state of emergency” is on the cards following a high-level meeting on Saturday between Treasury, the SA Reserve Bank and the SA Revenue Service on measures to shore up the economy, to protect small businesses and ordinary South Africans amid predictions that there could be a huge spike in Covid-19 infections.
City Press saw a Treasury memorandum titled Economic Response Packages in which Treasury warns the state to do whatever it can to prevent the spread of the virus.
According to the Sunday Times, the SANDF could be deployed to patrol the streets as restrictions are tightened to help stop the virus from spreading.
All leave has been cancelled, and SANDF members have been told to return to their units to start preparing for short-term deployment, after the defence force was placed on standby.
The Sunday Times, however, said that senior military officials told the publication that the SANDF does not have sufficient personnel or equipment if a full lockdown is implemented.
This was disputed by SANDF spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini, who told the publication that the SANDF was waiting for the multidisciplinary team leading government’s response to say if there was a need for the defence force to enter.
Some members of the SANDF were spotted on Jan Smuts Avenue in Johannesburg on Monday.
— Victor Kiriakis (@dee_ai89) March 23, 2020
Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu announced on Sunday that due to the magnitude and complexity of the issues Ramaphosa was dealing with, he would only communicate the outcomes and decisions of government on further measures being taken to combat the spread of Covid-19 on Monday.
On Monday, he confirmed Ramaphosa would update the country in the evening.
Ramaphosa spent most of the weekend in engagements business and political leaders around the national state of disaster.
Speaking at the Union Buildings at noon on Sunday, he thanked political parties and business for their collective involvement in giving their input on the national response against the virus.