98% pay hike for defence force

HUNDREDS of soldiers erupted in cheers and tears of joy when Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu announced pay increases of up to 98 percent yesterday.

About 700 soldiers gave Sisulu a standing ovation as she announced increases of more than R2000 a month for the lowest paid South African National Defence Force members.

Speaking at the Youngsfield Military Base in Cape Town, Sisulu said all SANDF members in their first year of training will now be paid R4318 a month, up from R2643.

Second-year trainees will now be paid R5343 a month.

Privates and corporals, whom she described as "the workhorses of the army", will go from R5286 to R7871 monthly.

The lance corporals will go from R6149 a month to R8519, while corporals' pay is hiked from R7274 to R9222.

Sisulu said she had taken into account their unhappiness at the incentive bonus scheme, which normally benefits higher-ranking soldiers.

This year her department had taken the lump sum allocated to incentive bonuses and distributed it equally among all the soldiers.

Sisulu endeared herself to the crowd when she told them "it is not much" but that they would get a R1688 bonus each on December 23.

Sisulu also announced that soldiers would be sent to the borders by 2010 "to protect the constitutional security of South Africa".

This would free up police to fight crime.

Meanwhile, Sapa reports that Cosatu has welcomed the pay hikes for soldiers, but says this does not justify a defence force ban on unionism.

President Jacob Zuma said on Wednesday the hikes would be effective from December 1.