Sisulu blinks first in standoff

CEASEFIRE: Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has undertaken not to fire unruly soldiers for now. Pic: Thembinkosi Dwayisa. Cira August 2009. © Sunday Times.
CEASEFIRE: Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has undertaken not to fire unruly soldiers for now. Pic: Thembinkosi Dwayisa. Cira August 2009. © Sunday Times.

THE defence force will for at least the next two months not fire any soldiers who took part in an alleged illegal protest march at the Union Buildings in Pretoria last month.

THE defence force will for at least the next two months not fire any soldiers who took part in an alleged illegal protest march at the Union Buildings in Pretoria last month.

The SA National Defence Union (Sandu) yesterday took Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and the chief of the SANDF to court to stop its members from being dismissed and to declare the procedure adopted in dismissal notices served on them unconstitutional.

After several hours of negotiations, the minister late yesterday afternoon undertook not to dismiss any soldiers as a result of the August 26 march, pending the finalisation of the union's urgent application.

In terms of the settlement, the SANDF may also not remove any of the soldiers' benefits, but may redeploy them, provided they remain in the same geographical area.

This could include placing them on special leave on full pay, with the retention of their benefits.

The minister and defence force chief were given two months to file further papers; whereafter Sandu will also be able to do so.

Sandu is seeking a court order declaring the 30 August dismissal notices, which gave soldiers just 10 days to supply reasons they should not be dismissed summarily, unlawful and unconstitutional.

According to the notice, soldiers who participated in the August 26 march engaged in criminal activities, threatened the security of the country and were guilty of mutiny.

Sandu secretary Johannes Greeff said in court papers their members had applied for leave to take part in the march, but were denied leave in contravention of two court orders in the union's favour.

He claimed no one ever told them the defence force had been put on high security until an urgent application to stop the march was being argued in court about half an hour before it was scheduled to start.

About 3000 SANDF members had already started gathering at the city hall in Pretoria when the interdict was granted .

The soldiers were moved to the Union Buildings under police escort so it could be explained to them and therefore never took part in an illegal march, Greeff said.

He stressed that the union did not condone the "unfortunate behaviour" of unruly persons at the Union Buildings. Sandu was launching an investigation and would act against any members involved in criminal conduct. - Sapa

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