No room for aberration

THE shooting of striking South African Defence Force members by the police is yet another sad indictment of how easily the constitutionally enshrined right to gather and protest can get abused.

There should be no doubt that ours is a constitution that acknowledges the rights of all to associate with like-minded persons and to organise themselves to further their best interests; in the case of the soldiers, to help them bargain for better working conditions.

With this we distance ourselves from the view that the nasty incidents witnessed in Pretoria this week means that soldiers should not be allowed to form or join worker unions.

We, however, deplore the ill-discipline that the soldiers showed. The military is one place that should not countenance those who think being disciplined is an option.

The damage to state property and refusal to acknowledge a court order declaring the march illegal was an intolerable act of insolence.

We expect more of those whose job is to defend the republic from foreign threats.

We are not indifferent to their real gripes. But the tendency in South Africa to use legitimate anger as justification for lawlessness has gone too far. The powers that be should no doubt take responsibility for the slow descent into anarchy.

We hope that the action by the police on Wednesday and the Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu's announcement that all the recalcitrant soldiers will get the sack, sends a definite message to all: genuine grievances are no excuse for lawlessness.