Soldiers stand ground on wage offer
‘We’ll keep protesting until we get salary increase of 30% across board’
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