Split in the ranks over mass firing

THE ANC and its alliance partner Cosatu are on a collision course over the government's mass dismissal of soldiers who protested at the Union Buildings two weeks ago.

Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu has provisionally dismissed 1300 soldiers, giving them until Friday to provide her with reasons why they should not be permanently axed.

Sisulu came out strongly against the soldiers in a meeting of parliament's portfolio committee on defence and military veterans yesterday. She said they were guilty of "eight serious violations", including undermining national security.

Soldiers' union sources told Sowetan they had lobbied ANC MPs to persuade Sisulu to drop her threats of dismissal but yesterday the ANC sided with the DA and Freedom Front Plus in condemning the soldiers' conduct.

Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said yesterday that it would "definitely oppose" any attempt to remove the rights to organise and protest that the Constitutional Court granted soldiers in 2007.