Soldiers target Union Buildings again
Pretoria - Soldiers are preparing to march on the Union Buildings in Pretoria next month to hand over a memorandum, the South African Security Forces' Union (Sasfu) said in Pretoria on Sunday.
Sasfu's Gauteng chairperson Mfazwe Plaatjie said the union also planned to take legal action against Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu for keeping hundreds of soldiers on special leave.
He said that the soldiers were placed on special leave and had not worked since the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) identified them as having taken part in a march in August 2009, when police used rubber bullets to disperse the soldiers.
"They are paying people who are sitting at home doing nothing. This is wasting taxpayers' money and it is against a court order," he said.
Shortly after the march, the SANDF sent out letters to about 1 500 soldiers dismissing them unless they were able to explain their whereabouts on August 26 2009.
On September 9, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ruled that they needed to be reinstated with full benefits.
Plaatjie said most were placed on special leave and he believed about 200 were still not working.
Defence ministry spokesperson Ndivhuwo Wa Ha Mabaya said: "Sasfu have said often before that they want to march. I can't comment on speculation."
However, Plaatjie said the government was aware of the planned march on October 23.
"They are aware of it now and if they want to stop it they must do it now so that we can defend ourselves in court," he said, adding that the government had been aware of the August 26 march for some weeks.
"There is no need for an urgent interdict. We are giving them prior notice of the march," he said.
He said that apart from demanding the reinstatement of soldiers still on special leave, the union was also demanding that the minister should use the Military Bargaining Council to hear the soldiers complaints.
He said the council was a legitimate body gazetted by the government in August 1999.
He said the last time unions had met with a defence minister or his representative was Mosiuoa Lekota in 2007.
Sasfu also called on the SANDF to stop harassing union members and to improve the remuneration of all soldiers, including housing allowances.
It also demanded rapid transformation of the SANDF.
Plaatjie said this included revealing the names of the former freedom fighters who spied for the apartheid regime and a review of military skills development contracts, under which youngsters were recruited for a period of two years.
He said that those who signed up had been trained in the use of weapons, but had no other skills after two years. He said the contracts should be for a longer period.
"You are in danger of releasing criminals and people who only know how to shoot. They need other skills before they get released," said Plaatjie.
He also urged Sisulu to release the Interim Military Service Commission report.
The commission was established after the march in August 2009, but to date its report has not been published.
"We would like to know what it says. This report cost taxpayers' money. South Africans would like to know what it says," said Sasfu deputy president Charles Jacobs.