Military trade union Sandu (SA National Defence Union) has this month pummelled the SA National Defence Force’s (SANDF) Legal Services in court with more than 130 soldiers either having been acquitted or reinstated.
In three different instances the union has earned judgements in favour of those it represented when acting on behalf of, in two cases, soldiers accused of being absent without leave (AWOL) in the 2009 Union Buildings protest and, in the third, for SANDF recruits apparently unfairly dismissed earlier this year.
Last Friday the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria directed Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, to reinstate 38 SANDF recruits, retrospectively from February 21 this year.
“They were part of a group of 93 who were sent home by the SANDF in February, despite having being selected and contracted and having already commenced with basic military training,” Sandu national secretary Pikkie Greeff said.
Sandu decided to go the court route when it could not get any reasons for the termination of service of the 38.
“The SANDF had no lawful process or reason to terminate the service of these recruits. It is also highly suspicious that, after sending them home, busloads of new replacements arrived at the same bases, even though basic training had commenced three weeks earlier.
“The effect of the court order obtained is that the SANDF will have to pay these recruits retrospectively and until they have completed their two year service periods. This means the SANDF, due to its own bad human resource practices and unlawful conduct, will now have to pay the recruits almost R2 million in total back pay for the period spent at home, as well as the legal costs of the court action, close to R100 000. In addition, transport to return the recruits home, earlier, and to now return them to their respective bases, will also be at the SANDF’s cost and amounts to approximately R200 000,” Greeff said.
In two other Military Court hearings at the SA Army Gymnasium in Heidelberg and relating to the 2009 march on the Union Buildings, soldiers represented by Sandu were acquitted on AWOL charges.
“All told 119 soldiers have now been found innocent of AWOL on the day in question,” he said, adding the acquittals show the charges “were trumped up”.
The Department of Defence and Military Veterans (DoDMV) Legal Services Division has a poor record in court – in the 2012/13 financial year the Division managed only a 14.99% actual achievement in litigation capability and services, according to a DoD annual report. Of the 104 four cases that went to court in the 2012/13 financial year, by far the majority of rulings – 90 – went against military lawyers with only 14 for.