President Cyril Ramaphosa has given authorisation for 20,000 soldiers to keep their boots on the ground as part of the country’s fight against Covid-19.
Ramaphosa informed Parliament of his decision to extend the deployment of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) from 27 June to 30 September.
“Expenditure expected to be incurred for this extension is R1.5 billion,” Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said in a statement in which Ramaphosa’s decision was confirmed.
In his letter to the speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, and National Council of Provinces (NCOP) chairperson Amos Masondo, Ramaphosa said soldiers would work with the South African Police Service (SAPS) to maintain law and order.
The SANDF will also support other state departments and control South Africa’s border.
On 25 March, the president authorised the deployment of 2,820 SANDF members and this number was increased to 76,000 on 21 April.
The April deployment came at a cost of almost R5 billion and included regular, reserve and auxiliary forces.
“In his correspondence to the speaker and the chairperson, President Ramaphosa says the outbreak of Covid-19 continues to increase across the country and that the services of these SANDF members [are] still required to combat the spread of the pandemic,” Mothapo said.
Ramaphosa said the SANDF would continue to work for as long as the pandemic was not under control and work with the national Department of Health in managing Covid-19 with the provision of field hospitals, medical screening and quarantine facilities.
It will also support the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to improve the living conditions of communities by providing water supply and other engineering services.
The SA Military Health Service will also give support to Port Health Services.
The president’s letter will be referred to Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence for consideration.