Johannesburg – A picket was held outside the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) base in Oudtshoorn on Wednesday, with members of the SA National Defence Union (Sandu) protesting over conditions at the base, the union said.
Spokesperson Pikkie Greeff said the union was holding a peaceful picket because the military had failed to respond to concerns related to “dire management practices” allegedly taking place at the base.
In a statement, he claimed there had been no investigation into recent deaths at the base, or if they had been investigated, the results had not been made public.
In August, a woman recruit committed suicide at the base. At the time Sandu claimed the suicide note made reference to humiliation by base management.
Picket organisers face arrest
SANDF spokesperson Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga criticised the union for “trying to gain popularity [by] using the death of a person”.
“I don’t know where they got it that this investigation would be made public, or the timeline.”
Greeff said the organisers of the picket were threatened with military arrest.
“He [the commanding officer] has even taken the ridiculous step of unlawfully ordering all members at his base that they are prohibited from attending any Sandu meeting outside working hours and outside the military base…
“By issuing these illegal orders and clamping down with power abuse on constitutional rights, Sandu’s complaints about the Oudtshoorn base [are] simply being justified.”
Mabanga said any threat to security at an SANDF base would be dealt with.
“If anybody comes close to any SANDF institution to picket or toyi-toyi we will deal with those issues.”
Bound by the rules
He warned soldiers not to allow themselves to be misled.
“They themselves volunteered to join the SANDF, and when they joined they committed themselves to the rules that govern the SANDF members.”
These were the Constitution, the Defence Act, the Military Supplementary Discipline Matters Act, and the Code of Conduct.
They were also bound by any other department of defence policy, as well as the SANDF’s directives and instructions.
“Taking into consideration the social and economic situation in South Africa and the high rate of unemployment, [there are] people – individuals and unions – trying to gain popularity… and trying to mislead South Africans.
“People must not try to incite or mobilise [soldiers] or undermine military discipline and the authority of the SANDF.”
Last Wednesday, expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema met with around 60 soldiers at the Lenasia Recreation Centre in Johannesburg.
There he criticised the country’s political leadership and accused them of ignoring the needs of SANDF members, including not reinstating the hundreds of soldiers put on special leave for protesting at the Union Buildings in 2009.
Soldiers protest at Oudtshoorn base