National lockdown: Stay calm and avoid confrontation, soldiers told


Members of the SA National Defence Force have been warned to execute their tasks during lockdown professionally and to avoid provocation.

On Thursday, Joint Operations Chief of Staff Vincent Ngcobo told this to troops at the 21 South African Infantry Battalion base in Soweto before the SA Army Foundation handed food parcels to them.

The goodies include energy boosting snacks, nuts, chocolate bars, dried fruit and beverages. 

The national lockdown was extended by two weeks by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday night. 

Ngcobo pleaded with his soldiers to remain calm and focused at all times while executing their duties as mandated by the lockdown regulations.

"We need to focus more on our professionalism as we are executing our task by avoiding provocation during execution of your duty.  

"You must always keep in mind the mandate you are sent here for. You must always respect the population of the Republic of South Africa. This population is in need of your help. All their hopes are upon you.

"When they see you, they see the relief. When they see you, they must see brothers and sisters who came to relieve them from the distress," said Ngcobo.

He told the soldiers that whenever people see them they should see a defence force that was protecting them as they have pledged in their code of conduct. 

"We have pledged to defend this country and its people as citizens ourselves and as volunteers. We are called upon to do exactly what we have pledged in our code of conduct and what we have sworn when we took this duty of being in the defence force," said Ngcobo.

He commanded his troops that while executing their tasks, they should protect themselves in order to protect others. 

"The situation as it is now, it is on the initial stage. I want you to focus and add more energy in case the task increases. I am told by your commander that we have 1 500 troops on the ground and we will build on this as the need arises."

You are not alone

"You will not be alone. There are brothers and sisters that will join as when required. I was also briefed by your commander about the challenges you have during the execution of your duties," he said.

Ngcobo promised to immediately address challenges raised by the soldiers on the ground.

"This is not business as usual. I want you to adjust in terms of your reaction, your volunteerism, your conduct of your duties and make sure that we do this and we do it with speed before this disease contaminates the majority of our population."

READ | Coronavirus: Army moves from 'peacetime' to 'wartime' footing as 21-day national lockdown announced

Ngcobo said: "This pandemic has overcome the rest of the world and South Africa is not spared of this. It has forced our nation to go on lockdown in order to cut the chain of the contamination.

"In the process of executing that, we as the defence force have to ensure some strict measures that were posed to the population. These are the people standing before me that must execute that."

READ | SANDF chief describes fight against Covid-19 as World War III

The manager of the SA Army Foundation, Angel Ramphele, said it valued the work done by the army.

"The defence force deploys its members in all borders of South Africa in order to enhance the safety of the country and its people. In all of this. the foundation saw it fit and thoughtful to extend its gratitude to thank you to acknowledge the work you do.

"We have brought with us here a small token of appreciation and acknowledgement of the great task you are executing in this important period of the history of our country," said Ramphele.

"We acknowledge the lockdown period implemented by the government. This is an even bigger commitment that is required from you as a soldier, citizen and families," he said. 

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