'We stepped up when things got tough': proud soldier pens heartfelt message

23 April 2020 - 12:16 By Kgaugelo Masweneng
Soldiers patrol Alexandra, Johannesburg, in this March 28 file photo. Pretoria-based soldier Lerato Afrika shared a heartfelt Facebook message pleading with people to respect the SANDF during lockdown.
Soldiers patrol Alexandra, Johannesburg, in this March 28 file photo. Pretoria-based soldier Lerato Afrika shared a heartfelt Facebook message pleading with people to respect the SANDF during lockdown.
Image: ALON SKUY

A soldier has penned an open letter reminding South Africans that troops have a vital role to play and are not "uneducated idiots".

Pretoria-based Lerato Afrika posted on the #ImStaying Facebook page that she had witnessed women running away from abusers and parents recklessly sending their children out to the shops during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Many soldiers are using their meal allowances to buy food for the hungry they encounter, she said, while they "brave an invisible battlefield called Covid-19 to beg people to stay indoors, so this virus doesn’t do to us what it has done to fellow humanity elsewhere in the world."

"Our fellow heroes here are being infected on duty. So heartbroken to hear of our counterparts from SAPS, metro police, doctors, nurses, shop employees that have contracted it while going out there so SA could stay at home," she wrote.

Afrika highlighted the various disciplines within the military, saying troops are not "corrupt, brutal, stupid people who never went to school to get jobs".

"Soldiers comprise every career out there too and more - we have infantry heroes to medical heroes, HR heroes to logistical heroes to lawyer heroes, pilot heroes, naval heroes, non-commissioned officer heroes, warrant officer heroes, officer heroes.

"When this country came to a standstill with medical strikes, soldiers deployed into hospitals, at times catching 48 babies a night. Not just our nurses but even HR stepped in when things got tough," read her post.

The proud officer also spoke out against the "ongoing narrative" of soldiers being brutal.

It's heartbreaking to come off long shifts ... only to come onto social media platforms and find incredible amounts of hate.
Lerato Afrika

"In this time, let's also choose to remember that soldiers are humans, heroes in uniform on the front line to help save a nation.

"It is heartbreaking to come off long shifts of the unpopular task of trying to get people to comply, at times in the most unbelievable circumstances, only to come on to social media platforms and find incredible amounts of hate and insults," said Afrika.

A lot of people under the #ImStaying group lauded her and her fellow soldiers.

Norma Ann McCrystal said it was unfortunate that people generally focused on the negative.

"Yes, there have been incidents of uncalled-for behaviour and unnecessary violence by those who are supposed to be keeping us safe and those responsible need to be taken to task. But if they were not out there, how much worse would this pandemic be?" she wrote.

"A big up to all in the forces who are doing a very difficult job which is often met with resistance. Thank you for your service and sacrifice."

Sphiwe Mntambo thanked Afrika for her message, saying it was "appreciated more than you know".

"We pray for your protection together with all those who serve us in different forms in our beautiful land. We salute you!"

Some users, however, were less than impressed with the motivational talk.

For Mpumi Mevana, the army's perceived brutality towards communities was unacceptable. 

"Don't you know how to enforce the law without abusing your power and killing our youth? Upon the pandemic we are tackling as a country, we are also [faced] with [the] death of our young people who are murdered by SANDF and SAPS ... Those who did such crimes should rot in prison, like any other criminals that committed murder. Disgusting!" wrote Mavena.

TimesLIVE has attempted to contact Afrika.


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