President Cyril Ramaphosa has informed Parliament of his decision to extend the employment of 20 000 members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) for service to enforce regulations aimed at containing Covid-19 from June 27 to September 30, a move set to cost R1.5-billion.
In a statement on Friday, Parliament said National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise and National Council of Provinces chairperson Amos Masondo had received correspondence from Ramaphosa dated June 30 which said the service of the soldiers was in co-operation with police to maintain law and order, support other state departments and control South Africa’s borders.
"President Ramaphosa says the outbreak of Covid-19 continues to increase across the country and that the services of these SANDF members is still required to combat the spread of the pandemic," it said.
The SANDF was fulfilling the mandate -- set to continue for as long as the pandemic was not under control -- of supporting and working with the department of health through the provision of field hospitals, medical screening, quarantine facilities and backing the department of co-operative governance and traditional affairs in ensuring adequate water supply and engineering services, Parliament added.
It would also help police enforce lockdown regulations aimed at curbing the virus and would enhance the safeguarding of borders through additional patrols.
Ramaphosa made the extension in terms of South Africa's Constitution and Defence Act.
On March 25, the president authorised the employment of 2 820 SANDF members and this number was increased on April 21 to 76 000.
Law enforcement officers have faced criticism for sometimes being heavy-handed in enforcing Covid-19 rules. Last month, SANDF said it condemned acts of violence after a video clip surfaced of an unidentified man dressed in army fatigues assaulting a woman.
In April Collins Khoza, a resident of Johannesburg's Alexandra township, died at the hands of soldiers and metro police after a severe beating for allegedly breaking regulations.