Analysts say that the deployment of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in Gauteng is an indication of a troubled health policy.

The SANDF should not have opted for deployment of its members to Gauteng province while there are unemployed medical professionals in the province. This is according to independent political analyst Dr Ralph Mathekga.

This decision by the national government comes as Gauteng battles to contain the third wave of Covid-19 pandemic infections. The SANDF military health services are meant to help decrease the pressure which private and public hospitals are experiencing since the wake of a massive spike in the Covid-19 cases, by enforcing regulations, assisting with human capital in hospitals, mask-wearing, contact and tracing.

Dr Mathekga said “Deploying SANDF to help with medical work should be the last resort and it should be done only if the health sector is stretched to limits. Deploying SANDF while we have unemployed medical practitioners is an indication of a troubled health policy.”

“The army should not be deployed unless that is necessary to save lives. Employing the army to interact with civilians always brings forth problems of abuse of human rights, police should remain in charge,” added Dr Mathekga.

Despite arriving on Monday and being welcomed by the Gauteng provincial government, SANDF military health services said they would only start on Wednesday after ironing out a few issues with the provincial government.

This is not the first time that soldiers were deployed to Gauteng during Covid-19, they were deployed during the initial hard lockdown which resulted in the brutal death of Collins Khosain Alexandra township, Gauteng. The Minister of Defence is being sued for this incident by the family of the victim.

During a press conference when welcoming the medical members of SANDF in Chris Hani Baragwanath, Gauteng Premier David Makhura said “we are grateful that the military service is deployed here but we’re going to continue to search for more resources, especially human resources,” said Makhura.

Makhura further said that Gauteng was under fire, burning with Coronavirus, “this place is burning with Coronavirus and our message is very, very clear that everywhere around the province there is no exception the test positivity rate is extremely high now, we want to say to people that the chances of getting infected are extremely high wherever you are,” Makhura charged.

President Cyril Ramaphosa echoed Makhura’s sentiments saying that stricter lockdown restrictions needed to be implemented. Ramaphosa was responding to questions during his visit at Cape Town Port on Tuesday, when he said that a balance needed to be struck between keeping the economy open protecting livelihoods, and protecting people’s lives.

“The lives of people are extremely important as are their livelihoods,” Ramaphosa said.

It is not yet clear if the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) will meet to review the lockdown level in the country, especially Gauteng province.

There are almost 5 000 Covid-19 cases in Gauteng schools, and there is a rise in infections in the educational  sector. 

According to reports, around 20 Gauteng schools have been closed at one point or another over the last approximately 4 months, due to the rise in Covid-19 cases in the schools around the province. 

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) called for the immediate closure of schools in the country, he gave Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga an ultimatum to do so in less than 7 days. He was addressing the party’s press conference on June 10, 2021.

“We are giving the minister of basic education 7 days to close schools, failing which, the EFF will be left with no choice but to close the schools,” said EFF President Julius Malema.

On Saturday 19th June, Minister Motshekga announced that schools would remain open.

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Kenneth Mokgatlhe

Kenneth Mokgatlhe is a political and social commentator.

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