Cabinet stays firm on SANDU dismissals

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cape Town - Cabinet has once again thrown its weight behind the Department of Defence and Military Veterans' decision to dismiss members of the South African Defence Union (SANDU) who took part in an illegal and violent march.

According to Government Spokesperson, Themba Maseko, Cabinet expressed its "full support for the action taken by the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Lindiwe Sisulu, against the members of SANDU".

He said while the minister would abide by yesterday's decision of the North Gauteng High Court, government still believed that the soldiers who participated in the violent and illegal march must account for their action.

Thousands of the union members recently embarked on an illegal march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, citing a wage grievance. This was despite Sisulu securing a High Court interdict against the march.

The protest turned violent when marchers arriving at the Union Buildings were not allowed access to the property.

Sisulu subsequently announced that all the soldiers who had been involved in the protest would be dismissed, calling their actions "deplorable and irresponsible."

Yesterday, the North Gauteng High Court postponed the matter between the department and the union.

Maseko maintained that SANDU members had broken the law in a number of respects, including undermining national security by marching and attempting to invade the Union Buildings, the seat of government which has been declared a National Key Point.

He said further to this, the protesters had defied a High Court order which declared the protest march illegal, failed to obey legal orders from the police during the march, were involved in vandalism and violence which led to the destruction of state and public property.

He said they had also defied orders of their commanders.

"As stated before, government is not going to tolerate the violation of any of the laws of the land and those who break the law, in whatever shape or form, will be held fully accountable for their actions," he said.

He added that while government acknowledged that the soldiers had genuine grievances, breaking the law in the manner in which they did remains totally unacceptable.

Meanwhile, Cabinet approved the proposal to establish the National Defence Force Service Commission, an independent body established to provide expert advice to the minister on all matters pertaining to the conditions of service of the members of the military.

Maseko said the decision was a clear demonstration that government was committed to addressing the genuine grievances of members of the military services.

He said the members of the commission would be appointed by the minister and would comprise experts from the civil society, academia and business.

"In doing its work, the commission will conduct interviews with members of the military, conduct research and embark on international benchmarking exercises to ensure that the conditions of service are broadly in line with international best practice," he added.