Article by: Natalie Müller
The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has deployed cohorts of engineering teams to build bridges and purify water in remote and destitute communities, as the country continues to contain the spread of COVID-19.
This was revealed by Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula during a media briefing of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster on lockdown level 3 regulations on Thursday. Lockdown level 3 regulations come into effect on 1 June.
The Minister said four engineering teams have been deployed to build bridges in rural areas of the Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu-Natal in an effort to assist citizens to access services as the country tackles the spread of COVID-19.
One bridge, said the Minister, has already been completed in the Eastern Cape.
“Another is being built in Fini in Queenstown,” she said.
Decontamination teams have also been placed on standby in Pretoria to conduct industrial-scale decontamination.
“The teams are also expected to be deployed to areas as the need arises,” said the Minister.
The engineer teams are deployed and are operational in Thabazimbi, in Limpopo; Hartswater in the Northern Cape; Vrede in the Free State; Legonyane and Fafung village in the North West, and Nkodide in KwaZulu-Natal.
“The purpose is water purification and the distribution to those areas where there is a dire need for drinking water,” she said.
SANDF offers medical assistance
Meanwhile, the Department of Defence is already ramping up its healthcare provision services.
These include doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, pharmacists and many other medical disciplines.
“These have been deployed to provide health care services to the members of the defence force and support the National Department of Health. An additional number of health care professionals from volunteers and members of the Reserve Forces has been added to support the National Department of Health,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.
Scanning teams have been deployed with the SANDF units in all provinces.
The Military Health Care Practitioners are performing thermal scans on citizen patrols at vehicle control points and roadblocks. She said these will assist with early detection of people who might be infected with COVID-19 and in doing so, mitigate the spread of the virus.
The SANDF’s Primary Health Care Teams have already been deployed to the nine provinces to support the Department of Health with the mass screening and testing initiative.
“These teams are being deployed in both urban and rural areas, and to areas where no infrastructures exist,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.
In this regard, the SANDF has availed mass quarantine sites from military facilities throughout the provinces.
These facilities, the Minister said, can accommodate 2 481 beds in KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape, Gauteng and Limpopo.
The Minister said in the past two weeks, inspection and oversight visits have been taken in Hoedspruit Air Force Base, where South African Air Force (SAAF) trainees are undergoing training; Oudtshoorn at the South African Army Infantry School; Simonstown in the Western Cape at SA Navy facilities, and the Saldanha at the Military Academy.
“There will be ongoing visits to our other facilities in Gauteng and other provinces to establish the state of readiness, as was done with the ones undertaken in the last two weeks,” said Mapisa-Nqakula.
In cooperation with other State departments, the South African National Defence Force has deployed regular, reserve and auxiliary services throughout the country in support of the people to combat the spread of the pandemic.
The Minister said the main task of the deployed forces include health care services, engineering capabilities and lockdown enforcement elements.
“The force levels will escalate in accordance with the growing numbers of COVID-19 cases within the force level availability of 73 000,” said the Minister.
In this regard, she said health care professionals have been deployed to provide health care services to deployed members of the SANDF.