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'Why are people on the streets?' - Some MPs rally behind SANDF during lockdown

Members of the committee said reports of abuse didn’t show the full picture and soldiers were only reacting to provocation by South Africans not observing lockdown regulations.

The SANDF took to the streets of Alexandra encouraging residents of the township to stay indoors. Picture: Kayleen Morgan/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Some members of Parliament’s joint defence committee have on Wednesday come out in support of soldiers who stand accused of murder and other abuses during the lockdown.

Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and defense officials have briefed the committee on the deployment of over 73,000 additional South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members during the lockdown.

They also discussed cooperation with the police service to maintain law and order during the nationwide lockdown.

Members of the committee have thrown their full support behind the defence force.

They said reports of abuse didn’t show the full picture and soldiers were only reacting to provocation by South Africans not observing lockdown regulations.

ANC MP Jerome Maake said: “People are not supposed to be on the streets, why are you on the streets? It means you’re breaking the law.”

Mapisa-Nqakula has accused people with an agenda of creating paranoia among South Africans.

She added two SANDF members have also died during the lockdown.

The committee said the department would have to reprioritise its initial budget to cover the costs of the new deployments.

Committee chairperson Cyril Xaba said the department should be able to cover this cost without reaching out to treasury for help.

“Whether they are deployed or not, we’ll still have to pay them, especially the permanent members of the force. That number is about 60,000 or so and then there’s an additional 50,000 or so from the reserve force. We will be paying them but it’s not much.”

Additional reporting by Kgomotso Modise.

For official information about COVID-19 from the Department of Health, please click here.