President Cyril Ramaphosa has written to parliament to inform them of his decision to extend the deployment of 20,000 soldiers as part of the country’s efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus.
Reuters reports that this is a significant drop from the original 76,000 soldiers initially deployed by the president.
This extended deployment is expected to last until the end of September, Ramaphosa said in his letter. He added that the expected cost of this extended redeployment will be R1.5 billion.
Ramaphosa first deployed 2,820 members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) as part of the country’s original three-week lockdown at the end of March. At the time, the expected cost of this expenditure was set at R641,200,290.
The redeployment of the SANDF comes as parts of the country face the possibility of reentering a stricter lockdown.
On Thursday (2 July), Gauteng premier David Makhura warned that the ‘Covid-19 storm’ has arrived in the province which could necessitate the reintroduction of stricter lockdown rules.
While Makhura said that his provincial government will continue to push for ‘behavioural change’ at a ward-level, he noted that this will likely not be enough.
“We are also making presentations to the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) at reinstating some of the harsher and more stringent (lockdown) measures.
“We think there may be a case for harder localized lockdown in areas where the infection rate is getting out of hand and people are not observing the measure being put in place.”
Specific issues which are set to be discussed include:
- The sale of alcohol – including the hours when it may be sold;
- The return of more school students, with an estimated 1 million expected to return as of 6 July;
- The reopening of churches and other specific sectors.
Opposition parties have also called for parts of the Western Cape to be placed under stricter lockdown restrictions, IOL reports.
However, both the provincial ANC and the Western Cape premier Alan Winde have warned of the harmful effects of reintroducing a stricter lockdown.
“Another strict lockdown will have a devastating impact on many of our most economically vulnerable residents,” said Winde.
“We are therefore not considering a return to level 5, and no indication has been made to us by our counterparts in the national government that this is something they are considering.”