Minister lashes out at SANDF protest

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pretoria - Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Lindiwe Sisulu has lashed out at South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members who have indicated they will embark on a protest march to the Union Buildings, in Pretoria.

Soldiers and staff belonging to the South African National Defence Union (SANDU) will be marching from the Pretoria City Hall to the Union Buildings on Wednesday. They are demanding a 30 percent wage increase.

The minister said the protest march was unnecessary, irresponsible and in breach of national security.

In a statement, the minister further said she was dismayed with the decision by SANDU to abandon the bargaining chamber and other formal platforms of negotiation. She said their concerns were being addressed by both her and the department.

She said she had shown her commitment to addressing all challenges facing the working soldier and some of the key issues are on the verge of being finalised and implemented.

Therefore Minister Sisulu called on the union to return to the bargaining chamber immediately.

"I want to assure the Defence Force staff that their conditions of service are a concern. We are seized with the matter and I would like to engage each one of them through the proper management structures to see how we can attend to these.

"We are acutely aware that the state of readiness of the SANDF depends primarily on the morale of our soldiers," said the minister.

She said having considered all their options, the department was considering making a request for a separate dispensation for the Department of Defence that would allow them to deal creatively with the departments own unique requirements.

Sandu National Regional Organiser Alfred Stok told BuaNews that they were expected around 5000 soldiers to participate in the march.

"We are demanding a 30 percent increase for our members. Currently soldiers are getting peanuts and yet they are the ones who are defending the country," Mr Stok said.

According to Mr Stok, Sandu has a total membership of more than 18 000 soldiers nationally.