Minister condemns illegal march by soldiers

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pretoria - The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Lindiwe Sisulu, has condemned in the strongest terms possible the acts of South Africa National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers who protested in Pretoria despite an interdict against the march.

"The minister condemns the sheer acts of vandalism and the threat to human lives by Members of the Military Union SANDU. Anarchy and lawlessness has no place in the Defence Force," said the department in a statement.

The minister said this represented the worse form of criminality in a democracy.

Thousands of SANDF Union members went ahead with their planned march from Pretoria City Hall to the Union Buildings on Wednesday, with the full knowledge that it was illegal, according to the department.

The union is demanding a 30 percent wage increase.

"The minister had warned SANDU that the necessary permission was not obtained from the SANDF or the SAPS. The minister approached the High Court and was granted an interdict against the march," she said.

The soldiers had been informed by their Commanders and the minister's office that the march was illegal.

Ms Sisulu said this lawlessness was a very serious breach of the nation's trust especially those charged with the protection of state security.

She had requested the Chief of the SANDF and the Minister of Police to look into the matter, and to ensure that the full might off the law is brought to bear.

The protest turned violent when marchers arriving at the Union Buildings were not allowed access. According to media reports, police fired rubber bullets when protesters tried to gain access to the property.

SANDU National Regional Organiser Alfred Stok, said the police had fired rubber bullets on their members while they were waiting to hand over their memorandum of grievances. He said two people had been slightly injured.

He said the union had received permission to embark on the strike and that it was legal. "We followed the right procedure," he insisted.

He denied reports that members had set a military vehicle on fire.

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