Sol­diers stand ground on wage of­fer

‘We’ll keep protest­ing un­til we get salary in­crease of 30% across board’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS -

SOL­DIERS will con­tinue protest­ing un­til the Min­is­ter of De­fence ta­bles a de­cent wage of­fer, the SA Na­tional De­fence Union (Sandu) said yes­ter­day.

“We call on the min­is­ter to ta­ble a de­cent of­fer, fail­ing which we will ini­ti­ate fur­ther pro­grammes of protest, start­ing on Septem­ber 2,” said Sandu pres­i­dent Mosima Mosima.

This would be in the form of pick­ets, pe­ti­tions and protest marches in a push for a salary in­crease of 30 per­cent across the board.

Mosima said the sol­diers had not de­fied a court or­der when they went to the Union Build­ings on Wed­nes­day. On Wed­nes­day morn­ing the High Court in Pre­to­ria would not give the sol­diers per­mis­sion for a planned march to the Union Build­ings.

Later they tried to en­ter the grounds of the Union Build­ings, which houses the pres­i­dent’s of­fice and other key de­part­ments, al­legedly dam­ag­ing ve­hi­cles and set­ting a po­lice van alight be­fore be­ing dis­persed by po­lice us­ing rub­ber bul­lets and tear­gas.

“At the time of re­ceiv­ing the court’s judg­ment, sol­diers had al­ready as­sem­bled at the des­ig­nated area, and the po­lice sug­gested that the sol­diers should be moved to an­other venue, which would not dis­turb (traf­fic and peo­ple in the) CBD, where leaders of the union would in­form them of the court rul­ing.”

He charged that when they ar­rived at the Union Build­ings, po­lice sprayed part of the group with wa­ter and that was when chaos erupted.

“This un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent led to a se­ries of events which ended up in ex­ces­sive, bru­tal and un­nec­es­sary action by po­lice,” said Mosima.

He said their mem­bers were shot with rub­ber bul­lets while run­ning for cover af­ter a po­lice wa­ter can­non sprayed them with wa­ter while they were about to sit down to lis­ten to union leaders. Spokesman for the union, Jeff Dubazana, said dis­miss­ing sol­diers for go­ing to the Union Build­ings would not solve their “shame­ful” salary po­si­tion.

“The min­is­ter – Lindiwe Sisulu – can­not dis­miss mem­bers … some of them were on leave of ab­sence while oth­ers were pro­tected by the Con­sti­tu­tional Court judg­ment of 2007 that ruled that sol­diers can­not be de­nied leave to par­tic­i­pate in a protest.”

Sandu said it would pur­sue con­tempt of court pro­ceed­ings against “all mil­i­tary leaders and civil­ian man­age­ment”.

The union said it was not op­posed to peo­ple be­ing charged if they acted crim­i­nally, but was against a “witch­hunt” of mem­bers for merely be­ing at the Union Build­ings on Wed­nes­day.

Dubazana said none of their mem­bers had been sus­pended or dis­missed. “Re­ports from mem­bers are that there is ten­sion be­tween them and man­age­ment, who want to iden­tify sol­diers who were at the Union Build­ings.”

The Umkhonto we­Sizwe Mil­i­tary Vet­er­ans’ As­so­ci­a­tion (MKMVA) has called for the de­u­nion­i­sa­tion of the se­cu­rity clus­ter fol­low­ing the sol­diers’ protest.

“Sol­diers are the pro­tec­tors of the con­sti­tu­tion and their al­le­giance lies with the coun­try … there is al­ways an ex­pec­ta­tion that a sol­dier must have pride, hon­our, duty and sac­ri­fice among qual­i­ties that de­fine his or her pa­tri­otic ac­tions,” said na­tional sec­re­tary Ayanda Dlodlo.

Dlodlo said MKMVA had called on Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, the Min­is­ter of Labour Mem­bat­hisi Md­lad­lana and al­liance part­ners to re­view the union­i­sa­tion of the se­cu­rity clus­ter in the in­ter­est of na­tional se­cu­rity.

The se­cu­rity clus­ter in­cludes the de­fence, the po­lice, in­tel­li­gence and the metro po­lice. – Sapa

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