Defence union wins court battle

2010-12-01 12:05

Pretoria - The SA National Defence Union (Sandu) on Wednesday won its court battle to stop the Defence Force firing more than 1 000 soldiers who took part in a violent protest march on the Union Buildings last year.

Judge Cynthia Pretorius granted an order in the North Gauteng High Court, declaring the procedure adopted by Defence Force, in terms of which the soldiers were issued with provisional termination notices in August last year, unlawful and unconstitutional.

She interdicted the SANDF from discharging Sandu members, pending the finalisation of a dispute to be referred to the Military Bargaining Council. Should the matter not be resolved there, the dispute must be referred to the Military Arbitration Board.

Back to work

Sandu called on its members who had been placed on special leave to report back to their units on Thursday.

"From tomorrow it's back to normal. If the employer is not happy with the ruling, they will have to come back to court," Sandu president Mosima Mosima said outside the court, where jubilant union members danced and sang in celebration of their legal victory.

"We have started to win the battle. If they appeal and it goes to the Constitutional Court, we are confident that we will win again."

Judge Pretorius found the notice issued to the soldiers constituted a decision to terminate their employment, albeit provisionally.

"The letter refers to the Constitution, and therefore the deduction can be made that the respondents were of the opinion that Section 23 and 33 of the Constitutional apply.

Prejudged the issue

"None of the defence counsel dealt with the Sunday Times article at all where the first respondent (Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu) made it clear that she had advised the second respondent (secretary for defence) to dismiss the members.

"This court can come to no other conclusion but that the respondents prejudged the issue without adhering to the audi alteram partem (the right to be heard) rule.

"Therefore the court finds that the procedure adopted by the respondents as set out in the notice dated 30 August 2009, and served on the members on 31 August 2009, was unlawful. It is, however, not this court's duty to decide which process should be followed. It is the employer who has to hold a disciplinary enquiry, who has to determine which form and procedure to adopt."

During the application the minister and chief of the SANDF insisted what the soldiers did during their protest - attempting to scale the perimeter fence of the Union Buildings - almost amounted to a coup. They maintained it required extraordinary measures to maintain discipline and protect national security.

Responding to the ruling, The SA Security Forces Union said in a statement it was time to forget about attempts to "de-unionise" the SANDF.

"This fight proves to be costly and unachievable. Forward to a strong military bargaining council that will resolve labour disputes."

  • Talk500 - 2010-12-01 13:40

    It is a sad day when the goverment is seen as just another employer and not even the army remains loyal. Then again it is the goverments own fault that an enviroment was created where most people belief that by striking and vandalizing all problems will be resolved.

  • j.malemmer - 2010-12-01 13:51

    Typiese dom konte met spiese attitude as jy my vra.

  • MaLemmer - 2010-12-01 14:13

    Thank Goodness I left when I did. Imagine being associated with these clowns....oops, but the gov'ment put them there!

  • Rick - 2010-12-01 14:23

    The ANC government is too stupid to follow its own labour laws!

  • randrdunbar - 2010-12-01 15:29

    The army should be de-unionised,with immediate affect.The Army serves the Government of the day and disputes should be settled internally.The behaviour of certain members of the Army is inexcusable and warrants immediate dismissal.Are the Unions in control or the Government of the day.How much is this costing the law-abiding citizen,who should be enjoying security of an effectively functioning Army and not a mutiny?

  • jon4plk - 2010-12-03 12:27

    Union s in the army!too much dosage of democracy if you tell me. Ofcours the minister could have simply followed procedure. There are so many ways of firing someone if you just know how. Th eproblem is that the minister acted in a heavy handed manner and wanted to show everybody how tough she was. And besides who is teh enemy here?these guys are not motivated enough to be in teh army. Back in the day teh enemy wa sdie swaart gevaar,SWAPO, FRELIMO, all teh commies in the world and anything lurking in teh bush. That was enough motivation. Discipline-it came aoutomatically since they were told if you dont, you will get swallowed by teh saart gevaar. The stoking of fear of the unknown and the threat of loosing your way of life provided teh army with enough discipline and motivation. For teh non-white SANDAF members-it was just another job to keep away the hunger!You did as u were told-didnt wait to think. I think its something teh current useless,directionless army inheritaed from the past. Add on some bellies,thugs,dropouts,dagger smokers and you have an army. To do what exactly? Eh m, patrol the borders?peacekeeping?he he he.what a circus. I was always supsicious of this democracy thing-too much of it is not good. It could end up being democrazy. The army should never serve the government of the day-it should serve the people first.

  • pauldj - 2010-12-03 12:39

    I was a soldier for thirty years and left with the rank of RSM. The unions came into being and have caused a total breakdown in discipline. The army is falling apart when troops can do as they please and get away with it. The strongest army in Africa has become a joke thank you government for allowing the decay to set in,troops with hiv requiring special treatment, what a joke to employ sick people when we need healthy troops. The lack of standards is noticeable and the union considers this court case a victory. May this country not have to defend itself....

  • Ian - 2010-12-04 07:51

    I disagree with the idea that the army serves the government of the day. That's the thinking that gave us Hitler and the SS, the SA a Army of the 60's and 70's, Idi Amin in Uganda etc, etc. (shut up whingers I served as well). The SANDF should be a non-political organisation. It should have only one political boss the defense minister. It's members should swear to uphold the constitution of the republic and not the government. But i do agree that unions in the army, only in africa my friends only in africa. The SANDF should be apolitical

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