President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday warned that South Africa could have more than 1 500 confirmed coronavirus cases within the next few days.
The president, who was dressed in full SANDF gear, was speaking to the nation while giving final orders to the troops who will be deployed to the streets from Thursday midnight.
Ramaphosa said government was keeping the majority of the population indoors and it was the task of the SAPS and the SANDF to help curb the rising Covid-19 infection rate.
“We are placing confidence and trust in all of you. In a few days, we could be at over 1 500. Our task is to minimise the infection rate,” he told the soldiers.
“Our task is to give life back to the people of South Africa, to make sure we save lives, to make sure the people of South Africa are safe and to make sure the country is in a state we can bounce back and come back to life. You are going to make that possible,” Ramaphosa said.
Following the president’s address, the soldiers were heard singing from their Soweto SANDF base where Ramaphosa was addressing them from.
At midnight, they, along with the SAPS, will govern the streets.
“I am dressed in your uniform as your Commander-In-Chief to signify my total support as you begin this most important mission in the history of our country.
“It is unprecedented in our history to have a 21-day lockdown. Go out and wage the war against an invisible enemy, the coronavirus,” said Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa also called on the police and the soldiers to be respectful, understanding and supportive of the people in the streets.
“You are the defender of the lives of our people, their health and their well being. Tonight, you begin the most important mission of your calling as soldiers. Your mission is to restore the lives of the people of South Africa, that is what you are called upon to do, to work with our police.
“You are required to do so in the most respectful, understanding and supportive way. The people of South Africa will be looking upon you as defenders of our nation, you will need to restore trust and confidence.
“Many of our people are fearful and doubtful, they are concerned about the virus and the loneliness as we confine them to their homes. They are concerned about boredom, they will be looking upon you that everything will be alright,” said Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa said kindness, and not the ‘force of might’, should be the order of the day.
“When they see you patrol with your guns, they will be fearful, make sure when they see you, they see the kindness of South Africa.
“We want them to know you are there to be supportive of them. This is the most important moment throughout the history of our country, they will be looking to you for that great support,” said Ramaphosa.