Four weeks of verbal skirmishing between the country’s largest military trade union, Sandu (SA National Defence Union), and the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) looks set to result in a legal battle.
After seeing a SANDF statement issued by Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga, SANDF Director: Corporate Communications, an obviously angry Sandu National Secretary Pikkie Greeff told defenceWeb he had instructed his legal representative to investigate libel charges “at the least”.
“This is in addition to other charges and interdicts we are investigating against the SANDF. These include defamation and lies against myself and the union.”
Mabanga’s statement notes, in part, that the SANDF “is aware of a Sandu plot to disrupt the programme of the defence force by targeting certain generals. The SANDF views these threats in a serious light and would like to state there will be serious consequences to any member found to have contravened any rules and regulations governing management of the defence force”.
The SANDF statement indicates it is “aware” of a mobilisation effort by the trade union urging Sandu members to picket outside military facilities and establishments. This, Mabanga said, was the union’s way of registering concern about the allowances paid to soldiers deployed outside the country.
“Deployment of the SANDF on external missions is not a money-making scheme but is in pursuance of the Republic of South Africa’s national interests. SANDF members are also reminded they volunteered and are subject to the Defence Act and the Military Disciplinary Code.”
All Greeff was prepared to say, with legal proceedings in the offing, was that the latest SANDF statement was part of a “recurring theme” that started soon after the Battle for Bangui.
“This is the fourth attack and follows a personal attack on me last week in connection with a Sandu rally planned for Freedom Day,” he said.
In a statement regarding the Freedom Day meeting, the SANDF said it was “not surprising” that Sandu had called a meeting “on such a very important day for all freedom loving South Africans. This shows a kind of organisation and its leaders that we are saddled with.”
The statement went on to say that, “It is shocking that Sandu seems to have no regard of such an important day in the history and calendar of South Africa. It is either they don’t recognise or they want to undermine the significance of this day…Their action exposes them that they have never accepted a democratic South Africa and yet they claim to be the custodian and the protectors of democracy and people’s rights.” The SANDF alleged that Sandu was ‘undermining democracy’ and called on its members not to be incited and misled by Sandu.
The SANDF, according to Mabanga, believes the union is running a campaign to “discredit, undermine and create a state of anarchy in the SANDF. This will put the security of the State at risk.
“This is unacceptable in the defence force: the SANDF should be respected as an instrument of state responsible for the security of the country.
“The SANDF is not a wing or an extension of a political organisation and therefore it does not promote or harm the interests of any political organisation in the execution of its duties. If Sandu is a wing or an extension of any political party then it should not try to stretch its wings within the SANDF but rather go to where politics are played.”
Sandu has on numerous occasions taken the SANDF to court and won. It is currently still heavily involved in representing soldiers who took part in the 2009 Union Buildings protest and has other cases pending against the SANDF and the Defence Ministry.