SANDF resuming trial against Union Buildings marchers


The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) will resume its trial proceedings against members who illegally marched to the Union Buildings in August 2009, with the pre-trial to be held later this week.

The SANDF said in a statement that the pre-trial will be held on the 8th and 9th of May at the SA Army Gymnasium College in Heidelberg.

The case is being resumed following the successful completion of Preliminary Investigation (PI) and the drawing of charge sheets. This took place on 21 February at 121 South African Infantry Battalion (SAI Bn), Mtubatuba Military Base.

On 6 August 2009 members of the SANDF marched to the Union Buildings in defiance of two military orders and a court order. They tried to climb the fence surrounding the government complex during their protest to demand better salaries. Police used water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the soldiers after the march turned violent.

The previous defence minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, placed the marchers on special leave. The Chief of the South African National Defence Force (C SANDF) subsequently issued an instruction revoking the letter that placed some members on special leave following a High Court ruling which instructed C SANDF to discipline marchers through the military justice system.

The 297 SANDF members who will appear for pre-trial procedure are those who obeyed the C SANDF instruction to report back to their home units to be warned, arraigned and subsequently reported at 121 SAI Bn at Mtubatuba for the Preliminary Investigation.

All 297 members will appear in front of a Senior Military Judge on 08 and 09 May, where they will confirm legal representation, the SANDF said. Upon the completion of this pre-trial, the presiding judge will then determine a suitable date for the trial.
“It is important to take note that this phase of the trial procedure excludes those members who did not obey C SANDF instruction to report back to their home units to be charged and arraigned. However, the members who arrived late will be dealt with separately at a later stage,” Director: Defence Corporate Communication Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga said in the statement.

Approximately 300 members reported back to face disciplinary action while the 664 who failed to report to their home units for investigation were to be dismissed. However, after the 600 plus names were published in mass circulation daily newspapers informing of dismissal, the members instituted a multi-million rand lawsuit against the defence ministry after the North Gauteng High Court found the adverts were unlawful and unconstitutional.
“The SANDF will continue to maintain discipline within its members. The SANDF is committed to serve the South African people and defend the territorial integrity of the RSA. The SANDF wants to assure all South African the military trial will be transparent, credible and fair to all members. All those members against whom no sufficient evidence was established, will be discharged or release and they will report back to their units,” the statement concluded.