President Cyril Ramaphosa has formally notified Parliament of the “employment” of members of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to ensure implementation of the 21-day nationwide lockdown.
In his letter the Speaker of the National Assembly Thandi Modise on Thursday, Ramaphosa said he had authorised the employment of 2,820 SANDF members.
He said the employment is “for a service in cooperation with the SA Police Service in order to maintain law and order, support other State departments and to control our border line in order to combat the spread of COVID-19.”
Expected cost around R641m
The lockdown started at midnight on Thursday and will be in place until midnight on Thursday, 16 April. In terms of the Constitution, the President is required to notify Parliament of the deployment of SANDF members.
Ramaphosa added, “Members of the SANDF will be employed in all nine provinces. This employment is authorised in accordance with section 201(2)(a) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 and section 18(1) of the Defence Act, 2002.
“The employment will be over the period from 26 March, 2020 to 26 June, 2020. The expenditure expected to be incurred for this employment is R641,200,290.”
Ramaphosa’s letter means the SANDF could be deployed for longer than the 21-day period of the lockdown. Siviwe Gwaruba, Democratic Alliance (DA) and spokesperson for the health portfolio, speculated on Twitter that the lockdown could also be extended.
On Thursday evening, Ramaphosa addressed SANDF members at the Doornkop Military Base in Johannesburg before their deployment.
He said, “Our people will be looking to you to give them assurance, not as a force of might, but as a force of kindness. They must know that you will be looking after them. Go and support our people. Go and defend our people.
“Go out and have the best of missions. This is a mercy mission, this is a life-restoration mission, this is a life-saving mission, [and] this is a life-giving mission. Go out and save the lives of South Africans.”
According to the lockdown regulations gazetted on Wednesday, people will be confined to their residences for 21 days “unless strictly for the purpose of performing an essential service, obtaining an essential good or service, collecting a social grant, or seeking emergency, life-saving or chronic medical attention.”
Meanwhile, South Africa has registered its first loss of lives to COVID-19, according to an update by Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize on Friday morning.
He said, “These two deaths occurred in the Western Cape, one at a private hospital and the other at a public hospital. We will give details later on when we announce the latest confirmed COVID-19 cases, which have increased from yesterday’s number and have tipped the 1,000 mark.”