The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, will charge the 1 300 soldiers that marched on the Union Buildings in 2009 under the military court system, after withdrawing the case from the Supreme Court of Appeal.
On August 19, 2009, soldiers in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) illegally marched on the Union Buildings in defiance of two military orders and a court order. Soldiers tried to climb the fence surrounding the government complex during their protest to demand better salaries. Police used water cannon, rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the soldiers after the march turned violent.
In August 2009, the soldiers each received a notice informing them of their “provisional dismissal”. They were accused of attending an illegal march, failing to obey orders, failing to dissociate themselves from violent protest, mutiny and of scandalising the SANDF. They were informed that their continued employment would constitute a security risk. The notice called on members to prove, within 10 days, why they should not be permanently dismissed.
The notice and consequent paid suspension of the soldiers led to a years long court battle between the South African National Defence Union (SANDU) and the SANDF. SANDU took the matter to the High Court and challenged the manner in which the Department attempted to terminate the soldiers’ employment. The High Court ruled in favour of SANDU based on the fact that the procedure adopted in dismissing the soldiers was not fair.
A decision was taken by the Department to appeal the matter straight to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) since leave to appeal was not granted in the High Court. The matter is to be heard in the SCA on August 20 this year.
On July 25 this year, the Supreme Court of Appeal addressed correspondence to the Department of Defence to enquire as to whether the Department wanted to proceed with the matter or not.
Mapisa-Nqakula, after receiving legal advice, and in consultation with the Chief of the South African National Defence Force, decided to withdraw the case from the SCA and to charge the soldiers under the military court system, the Department of Defence announced today.