Covid-19 regulations not applicable during military training courses despite risks - defence department

National commissioner of Correctional Services Arthur Fraser and deputy minister of justice and correctional services Thabang Makwetla.
National commissioner of Correctional Services Arthur Fraser and deputy minister of justice and correctional services Thabang Makwetla.
Jan Gerber/News24
  • Deputy Defence Minister Thabang Makwetla says a decision to not disrupt regular military training was taken when the lockdown was initially imposed.
  • This means classes for numerous SANDF programmes have not applied measures to social distance or reduce the number of members in attendance.
  • Makwetla said this was done because training happened in isolated communities, but the potential impact of Covid-19 on this was being monitored regularly. 

The defence department has defended a decision not to impose all Covid-19 regulations at the SA National Defence Force's (SANDF) training centres.

Deputy Defence Minister Thabang Makwetla said when the lockdown was initially declared in March, it was decided the military's training programmes would continue as per usual.

"Views of the command was [that] because of their very nature, these centres were in isolated communities and we would allow the programmes to continue".

Makwetla was part of a media briefing by the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster from the National Coronavirus Command Council, which is spearheading the government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

ALSO READ | 40 SANDF soldiers deployed to Limpopo test positive for Covid-19

Members of the military had raised concerns with News24, with some worrying about the lack of changes to those attending courses currently running in the country, which included refresher and promotional courses.

"People from differences provinces are sharing rooms, if one is infected then the whole class gets quarantined," one insider told the publication.

Precautionary measures

Makwetla said precautionary measures were in place for instructors and people who moved in and out of the areas such as those responsible for logistics and supplies.

"What we have said is that there must be strict protocols to monitor the observances of all the measures that are intended to combat the infections".

The country is fast approaching the peak of the pandemic, with a surge that could see 300 000 confirmed cases by the end of the week.

SANDF members, who were deployed to the streets of South Africa in March, will be assisting the police to enforce the daily 21:00 to 04:00 curfew.

Police Minister Bheki Cele, who was also part of the briefing, announced through a joint statement from the cluster that more than 60 military health practitioners have been roped in to assist with the situation unfolding in the Eastern Cape.

Ministers at the briefing also raised concerns over increasing levels of violence and crime in the country, accusing "criminal elements" of using the pandemic as a cover to increase attacks on the public.

"This state of affairs is not acceptable. The cluster commits to ensuring that all members of the community are protected against all forms of crimes," said Cele in the joint statement.

He added the justice department would be working with policing and community safety forums in response to the surge in crime during the health crisis.

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