While it has “no problem with black owners of businesses” trade union Solidarity stands ready to go to court on the exclusion of former SA Defence Force (SADF) veterans and pensioners from the Defence Sector charter.
The charter represents the cumulative efforts to date by South Africa’s defence industry, represented by the National Defence Industry Council (NDIC), to make this important sector of manufacturing demographically representative of the country’s various population groups.
What has put the wind up the Centurion-headquartered trade union is a clause specifically exempting former SADF soldiers from involvement in the small, medium and micro-sized enterprises (SMMSs) the charter seeks to empower.
Item 4.14 of the charter reads: “‘Military veterans’ means any South African citizen who rendered military service to any of the non-statutory military organisation s involved in South Africa’s liberation war from 1960 to 1994; became a member of the news SA National Defence Force after 1994 and completed his or her military training and no longer performs military service and has not been dishonourably discharged from that military organisation or force”.
Johan Kruger, Solidarity deputy chief executive, said: “There can be no grounds for the exclusion of military veterans or pensioners that fought on the side of the former SADF. Without them and the efforts of those before 1994 there would have been no real defence industry in South Africa”.
In other comments submitted on the proposed charter, Solidarity indicated it has “no problem” with black owners of businesses, appropriate black representation in senior and middle management and skills development but it opposes “the exclusive and apparently punishing and retaliatory nature of the proposed charter”.
Kruger said: “The pincers of coercion applied to suppliers in the (defence) industry are both non-compulsory and unlawful. However, they are made compulsory if a business is to survive. In numerous instances suppliers are required to transfer or sell 51% of a business to black people if they want to do business in the industry.
“This is nothing but unlawful expropriation and will negatively affect job security. Those who refuse to comply are simply penalised by not being allowed to do business with the state”.
The time for public comment input on the proposed charter has finished and, according to Armscor, acting as mouthpiece for the NDIC, the next step is for adoption of the charter by all stakeholders. It will then be submitted to the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans after which the Department of Trade and Industry will again publish it for public comment before it is gazetted in terms of the B-BEEE Amendment Act.