The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) has moved to quell speculation of deployment in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Pictures and videos of soldiers spotted in Craighall Park, Johannesburg, went viral on social media on Monday, fuelling the speculation.
In a statement on Twitter, the army said, “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.”
EWN reported earlier on Monday that the SANDF had been “ordered to prepare for a possible deployment to assist in efforts to mitigate spread of the coronavirus.”
The publication cited a “classified memo that has been widely circulated” as well as unnamed sources in the army.
President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster on 15 March. It entailed a wide range of measures, including travel bans and a ban on gatherings of more than 100 people.
Ramaphosa was set to address the nation on Monday evening to announce further measures after the number of confirmed coronavirus cases surged to 402.
Speculation is rising that the President may announce a state of emergency in a bid to contain the spread of the virus.
Some observers have speculated that he may announce a lockdown in some parts of the country. #ShutDownSouthAfrica trended on Twitter for the better part of the day on Wednesday.
During a media briefing on Monday evening, Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu refused to be drawn into speculation about whether Ramaphosa would announce a lockdown or not.
He emphasised that in the event of “drastic” measures, the government would implement them in a “responsible manner.”
Ramaphosa is also expected to announce measures to mitigate the economic impact of coronavirus.
He met business leaders on Sunday and is expected to meet trade unions and other organisations during the course of the week.