President Cyril Ramaphosa has authorised the employment of an additional 73180 members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to assist the SA Police Service (SAPS) in enforcing the extended lockdown.
This is a significant addition to the initial 2820 SANDF members that were dispersed on March 25 across the country to assist police officers in ensuring that citizens adhered to the lockdown measures.
The authorisation of the additional officers by the president was made public on Twitter by DA leader John Steenhuisen who shared a letter by Ramaphosa to the co-chairperson of the joint standing committee on defence, Cyril Xaba.
In the letter, dated Tuesday 21 April, Ramaphosa explains that the employment of the additional forces is for the period April 2 to June 26.
He added that the revised expenditure expected to be incurred as a result of the additional members of the SANDF is R4.59 billion.
Ramaphosa also specifies that the duties of the officers would include among other things maintaining law and order through supporting other state departments as well as securing the country’s borders in order to combat the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus in all nine provinces.
“Covid-19 infections cases continue to increase in the country ... as a result, I have decided to employ an additional 73180 members of the SANDF consisting of the regular force, reserve force and auxiliary force,” reads Ramaphosa’s letter.
The deployment of the SANDF officers has in some case instances left a bitter taste in citizens’ mouths with the military ombudsman office receiving numerous complaints about officers being heavy-handed in enforcing the lockdown.
Last week, the family of deceased Alexandra township resident Collins Khosa, who allegedly died at the hands of SANDF members and Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) officers, instructed its legal representatives – attorney Wikus Steyl of Ian Levitt Attorneys and advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi – to pursue a civil case against the state and the defence ministry.
Ramaphosa, however, went ahead and employed the additional officers after a virtual special Cabinet meeting held on Monday, which deliberated on the country’s socio-economic recovery plan post the covid-19 national lockdown.
The president, during an address to the nation on Tuesday, also announced a massive support package of R500 billion to be injected into the nation’s fiscus which amounts to 10% of GDP, as the country battles to combat the socioeconomic crisis that has been caused by the pandemic.
Ramaphosa went on to detail a “three phase” economic recovery plan which he said began in mid-March when he declared a state of disaster.
SA is in its fourth week of a five-week national lockdown, which was imposed by Ramaphosa in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The virus has infected more than 3 000 people and claimed 58 lives in South Africa.