Soldiers' rights in spotlight

2009-09-22 20:04

Midrand - Removing soldiers' right to belong to unions featured strongly in a political debate at the Congress of SA Trade Union's 10th national congress at Gallagher Estate in Midrand on Tuesday.

The congress was debating a political report presented by general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi on Monday. The issues covered in Vavi's report ranged from the 2009 general elections to the state of the alliance.

Even though the report did not cover the soldiers' plight, delegates expressed their dismay at the position taken by the African National Congress on the matter.

On Monday, President Jacob Zuma said the ruling party's National Executive Committee had agreed that de-unionising the military was best for national security.

During the debate, the South African Democratic Teachers' Union slammed "the attempt to shove de-unionising the military down our throats".

The National Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) agreed, saying the position taken by the ANC on the matter was an "erroneous one".

Young Communist League general secretary Buti Manamela described the newly-established commission to delve into the conditions of the military as "a sweetheart process", lacking substance.

He said the important matter of the treatment and working conditions of soldiers was clouded by the debate over whether they should be unionised.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said the alliance partners would have to discuss the differences in opinion further when they gathered for an alliance summit.

"Cosatu will put forward their position and we'll put forward ours... we'll take it from there," he said after the debate.

Vavi said 22 resolutions had been formulated on the political report, 73 on the socio-economic situation, 18 on the organisation itself and 23 on international affairs.