Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has painted the picture of a worse Covid-19 scenario in the next few months where soldiers would be collecting bodies and helping to bury them.
She was explaining the reason President Cyril Ramaphosa had to deploy more than 73 000 additional members of the South African Defence Force (SANDF), including their doctors and psychologists who would work hand-in-hand with the health and social development departments “at a time when people will be dying.”
Ramaphosa approved the deployment of 73 180 soldiers in addition to the initial 2 820 troops deployed last month to assist SAPS to enforce the lockdown.
The latest deployment came with a revised budget of more than R4.6 billion, up from R600 million.
Mapisa-Nqakula said if it happened, like in Spain and Italy, that South Africans die in huge numbers through the Coronavirus, soldiers would be there to collect bodies.
“When the need arises, SANDF will be there to build mortuaries in areas where we may not have one,” she said.
Big trucks had been made available to ferry the dead to cemeteries.
Mapisa-Nqakula said with the rising numbers of infections and the predictions that there was likely to be an exponential curve between August and September, there was a pressing need for Ramaphosa to increase the army deployment.
SA’s current death rate of Covid-19 is 58.
“I can assure you that the people you will need to pick those bodies to go and bury them would be the members of SANDF because they are the ones who had a mandate of being deployed without challenging the orders given to them,” she said.