Another development around the now infamous Union Buildings protest and its subsequent pre-trial and trial hearings came this week with the announcement that public violence charges have been struck from the roll.
At the same time, 35 soldiers face charges of being absent without official leave (AWOL) and their hearing took place today. At the time of publication the court’s decision was not known.
SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Director: Corporate Communication Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga said the Director: Military Prosecutions “intends to provisionally withdraw charges (of public violence) but the charges may be reinstated”.
At the beginning of last month public violence charges laid against 76 soldiers, all members of the SA National Defence Union (Sandu), were withdrawn by the Military Court sitting at the Army Gymnasium in Heidelberg. This led Sandu national secretary Pikkie Greeff to say no union member had committed any offence relating to violence during the 2009 march on the Union Buildings.
“Five years after the march that saw property damaged, not a single soldier has been proven guilty of any offence despite the SANDF’s consistent insistence that soldiers committed security breaches and acts of misconduct on the day of the march.
“This finding (by the Military Court) finally puts to rest the lies and propaganda spread by the SANDF relating to the alleged misconduct by soldiers during the march on the Union Buildings,” he said.
In the aftermath of the march which saw property and vehicles damaged, about a thousand soldiers were put on special leave pending an investigation. This in turn saw advertisements placed in certain publications calling for soldiers to return to their units with further investigation to follow. Eventually a series of pre-trial hearings was held followed by sittings of the Military Court at the Army Gymnasium. The sittings have been interrupted for High Court hearings but, as far as can be ascertained, to date about 780 soldiers who took part in the protest have been exonerated.