Zuma approved soldier sackings: Sisulu

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Defence and Military Veterans minister Lindiwe Sisulu says President Jacob Zuma approved her sacking of 1420 military personnel in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the South African National Defence Force.
“He did not hesitate to indicate his views – immediate dismissal,” Sisulu yesterday told the National Assembly`s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans.
“What we are dealing with here are acts of criminality… I had no option but to take the decision I took,” she said.
 
The 1333 SA Army soldiers, 80 SA Military Health Service medics and seven SA Air Force airmen took part in a protest-turned mutinous riot at the Union Buildings on August 26, the birthday of their SA National Defence Union (SANDU).
They were there to protest various grievances including pay disparities and conditions of service.
The SA Press Association reports she conceded that the SANDF faces a “serious problem” with discipline.
“You’re right, there is a problem with discipline… a serious problem of discipline in the defence force,” she told MPs.

Responding to questions, she said if there were no problems “we wouldn’t have had the problem we had on the lawns at the Union Buildings” two weeks ago.

Sisulu says the dismissed soldiers “were not the type of people needed in the defence force.

“I have discussed this decision with the president and am not able to rescind it,” she said.
The Business Day reported Sisulu insisted the riot was not the result of a failure on the part of the department`s political leadership.
But the paper says she acknowledged that when she sought to meet the leaders of SANDU she was advised not to as it would undermine the legitimacy of the military bargaining council, where the working conditions of soldiers are negotiated.
The minister said the first indications that a strike was being planned were seen in April, before the election and before the current administration had been put in place.
She said she had felt that the soldiers believed her when she promised that their working conditions would be addressed — but perhaps that had been overoptimistic; “they were determined to do this”.
Sisulu said that she would not pass judgment on the political leadership in place before her appointment, but insisted that in her three months there was nothing she could have done to stop the protest action.
In response to a question from Inkatha Freedom Party MP Velaphi Ndhlovu, Sisulu conceded that allowing soldiers to unionise was perhaps a mistake, and it was now in the interests of national security for another look to be taken at the issue of unionisation.
She said the decision was based on the 1999 Constitutional Court ruling that soldiers had a right to bargain on working conditions.
The minister said the department was working on a new structure similar to the Public Service Commission but specific to the military.
She said the relationship between soldiers and the government was different to that of ordinary public servants, and a different structure was needed.
Pan Africanist Congress MP Letlapa Mphahlele appealed to Sisulu not to put the personnel served with letters of dismissal on the street as they could cause havoc there and become an even greater threat to national security.

Pic: President Jacob Zuma of South Africa