Another legal row is brewing between the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and the military trade union Sandu (SA National Defence Union).
This time, the union avers, at least 15 of the soldiers sent home after allegedly going AWOL (absent without official leave) while deployed as part of the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been issued with notices.
“These inform them they have until November 5 to provide the Minister of Defence with reasons as to why they should not be dismissed from the SANDF. The notice also alleges the soldiers breached a curfew and were absent from their base without leave,” Sandu national secretary Pikkie Greeff said.
He maintains this is in “flagrant disregard of the military legislation dealing with military discipline and of the Constitution of South Africa”.
“SANDF members who are alleged to have committed disciplinary breaches are, by law, entitled to a fair trial by a military court. The SANDF is also by law obliged to prosecute any disciplinary breach for which it has prima facie evidence,” he said.
Greeff also points out Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has since April this year failed to discharge her statutory obligation of appointing military judges.
“This has led to a total breakdown in the military justice system.
“It is on the back of this failure that the SANDF now attempts to induce kangaroo justice on soldiers who are constitutionally entitled to equality before the law as South African citizens.
“To add insult to injury, the same SANDF has twice, since 2012, lost cases in the Supreme Court of Appeal at taxpayers’ expense. These were for similar attempts to dismissing soldiers without the benefit of a fair hearing or trial.”
Greeff said Sandu has to date received instruction from 15 affected soldiers and attorneys are working on “halting this unlawful process”.
The 15 are part of a group of about 50 soldiers sent home from the DRC last month after apparently going AWOL and visiting a local brothel. They were attached to the UN Force Intervention Brigade (FIB).
The soldiers are all from 121 SA Infantry Battalion headquartered at Mtubatuba in KwaZulu-Natal. An SANDF statement issued at the time said: “The members were found to have acted in a manner that compromised the security of SANDF members deployed in the area by breaching or violating the SANDF Military Discipline Supplementary Measures Act and Code of Conduct as well as the UN Code of Conduct for Peacekeepers. They will face the military judicial system as soon as all necessary administration processes have been finalised”.