R553m bill for extended SANDF deployment at Eskom

3000 SANDF troops to help protect national infrastructure.

3000 SANDF troops to help protect national infrastructure.

Published May 22, 2024


President Cyril Ramaphosa has extended the deployment of the SANDF at Eskom power stations, and to give support to the SAPS to maintain law and order.

The extension of the deployment of the over 3 000 troops comes at a cost of more than R553 million to taxpayers.

This emerged in two letters Ramaphosa wrote to Acting National Assembly Speaker, Lechesa Tsenoli, notifying Parliament of his decision.

“I have extended the employment of 746 members of the SANDF for service in co-operation with the SAPS for the prevention and combating of crime and maintenance and preservation of law and order in the Republic of South Africa under Operation Prosper Eskom power stations.

“Members of SANDF employed will, in co-operation with SAPS, continue to protect and safeguard national key points and critical infrastructure in the energy sector (Eskom power stations) under Operation Prosper over the period 1 April 2024 until 31 March 2025,” Ramaphosa wrote in one of the letters.

The deployment for this will come at a cost of R203 900 827. In another letter, Ramaphosa said another 2 300 soldiers will have their deployment extended to deal with illegal mining activities under Operation Prosper.

“Members of SANDF employed will, in co-operation with the SAPS, continue to prevent and combat illegal mining activities in and around the Republic of South Africa over the period of 29 April 2024 until 31 October 2024.” Their expenditure will amount to R349 907 616.

The SANDF was first deployed to support SAPS and Eskom to secure critical infrastructure in December 2022 following an increase in acts of theft and vandalism which contributed to energy shortages.

This after government and Eskom top officials had complained about sabotage at its power plants and the supply of sub-standard coal by contractors.

Last November, Ramaphosa extended deployment of the SANDF to deal with illegal mining for another six months, which came to an end in March 2024. At the time, Defence Minister Thandi Modise said the deployment was necessitated by acts of theft and vandalism which contributed to energy shortages.

“The deployment of SANDF has enabled Eskom to repair, maintain and secure power stations and furthermore has positively contributed towards reducing load shedding and enabled the government to continue to work towards stabilising and increasing the energy action plan,” she said.

Modise also said the SANDF continued to deploy and conduct operations with the resources and capabilities that were currently available.

“This has increased our reserve force man-days and resulting in further increase of the cost of employment budget.

“This matter has been discussed and hopefully the Department of Defence will get reimbursed or refunded by the Department of Public Enterprises through the assistance of the National Treasury,” she said.

Also last month, Ramaphosa extended the deployment of soldiers to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique until December 2024 and March 2025, respectively.

DA MP and spokesperson on defence Kobus Marais said the ordinary Operation Prosper yearly authorisation was done to support the police.

“With the upcoming elections, it was to be expected, although it is not the task of the defence (force) that they can be deployed,” Marais said.

He noted that the soldiers deployed were not significant but the defence force was used as part of the police.

“The Constitution provides for deployment of South African soldiers if the territorial integrity of the country is at risk.

“Obviously, to protect the power stations that can be considered, although it is the task of Eskom and the police for domestic safety and precautions.”

Marais also said the domestic deployments were an indication of the failures of the police and Eskom.

“Eskom has a responsibility to protect them (power stations) with their staff or private contractors. It should not be the responsibility of the defence.”

He said government had an “over appetite” to make deployments and forget about the primary role and responsibility of the defence force.

“In 2021, the insurgency in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng was a national threat, but none of the others.

That should be handled by other government departments,” he said. “It is a pity that we are dealing with a defence with a deteriorating state of defence capacity and decrease of the budget. While their budget is getting less and less, they commit more and more.”

Cape Times