The current utilisation of national defence force personnel in the wake of last month’s civil unrest and violence appears to have brought with it logistic problems which could impact on soldier health.
Sandu (SA National Defence Union) is the largest military trade union in the country and has – as normal – taken up these issues with SA National Defence Force (SANDF) management including Thandi Modise, recently named as defence and military veterans minister in place of long-serving Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
Receipt of complaints from soldiers deployed in KwaZulu-Natal, the province worst hit by the July violence, to the registered Pretoria headquartered labour organisation about the inadequacy, infrequency and standard of rations supplied resulted in an “immediate” legal approach to the Department of Defence (DoD).
A Sandu statement has it the union “demands immediate and effective distribution of rations” with good nutritional content or face another round of legal proceedings.
“Soldiers should not go hungry while keeping the country safe and risking their own lives,” according to Sandu national secretary Pikkie Greeff.
Days after the rations issue was raised, soldiers who are Sandu members were again reporting to union representatives. This time a lack of “basic hygiene products” was the gripe and again Greeff and his team figuratively put pen to paper to inform the new minister of what is termed “scandalous neglect”.
A letter to Modise indicates soldiers in troubled KwaZulu-Natal have been without toilet paper, hand soap and sanitiser for three weeks.
“Sandu has been unable to establish the reason for this scandalous neglect” and calls on the new Minister to “immediately rectify” matters. As with the sub-standard and non-arrival of rations, Sandu threatens legal action if there is no improvement in provision of hygiene products to military personnel.