Lindiwe Sisulu, the defence minister, is again on the offensive against the South African National Defence Union (SANDU), accusing it of spreading lies, being irresponsible reactionaries and being a danger to national security.
She accuses the union of lying to its membership about the payment of backpay as well as deployment allowances for border– and World Cup duties.
“The minister … is shocked by the extent in which SANDU has gone to spread lies to score small points on a matter they were never involved in,” her spokesman Ndivhuwo Mabaya said in a statement issued on Saturday. He says in her budget speech on May 4 the minister announced that the salary adjustment announced in December 2009 would be backdated to July 1, 2009, giving military personnel backpay of five months.
Mabaya also reminded that she announced that the backpay will be implemented in phases due to the availability of funds. “The backpay was never going to be paid on a once off payment as SANDU would like South Africans to believe. But in phases, this has been communicated to the soldiers through necessary channels,” he says in the statement.
He adds the SANDF will start implementing the backpay from this month in phases until all the money have been paid to all soldiers. “Our soldiers deployed in the borders and for the FIFA soccer world cup will receive the agreed deployment amount.” Since her appointment the Minister has taken many steps to improve the conditions of service of soldiers, from returning soldiers back to the borders, introducing a new dispensation that facilitated the huge salary adjustments, new complains procedure to speed up resolving problems and improving all service conditions.
Mabaya adds SANDU remains a danger to national security as their way of operation is to spread lies and irresponsible statement through the media. “SANDU knows the truth but chose to lie in order to gain media attention and remain relevant to their members in order to collect monthly deductions. The union is also feeling irrelevant as the minister has announced adjustments and detailed steps to improve the conditions of service without them being involved. Ordinary soldiers are beginning to see SANDU for what they are, a union that spread lies to remain relevant and receive monthly membership fee from poor soldiers for nothing.”
In a comment attributed to Sisulu, the statement adds that the “irresponsible and opportunistic lies being spread by SANDU demonstrates why we need to urgently remove unions from the SANDF… SANDU is the greatest danger to national security”. Sisulu announced last year that she wanted the military de-unionised, a step subsequently endorsed by President Jacob Zuma in his capacity as SANDF commander-in-chief. She has repeatedly sparred with SANDU since taking office a year ago.
It is not clear what reports Sisulu is referring to. A Google search of both the English and Afrikaans media only found a single South African Press Association report on the issue. This uoted a SANDU statement that said despite “a promise by the minister that five months’ back pay due to SANDF members would be effected from May 15, no such payments have been made, nor has any explanation been provided.” The union added this would affect morale and it called on Sisulu to take immediate action. “This failure to make payments casts a serious question mark over the credibility of the same minister’s recent statements that soldiers are valued. If only payment could be effected with the same speed and eagerness as had been shown in attempting the unfair dismissal of thousands of soldiers last year,” it added.
Beeld newspaper earlier this month reported that the SANDF’s attempt to dismiss those soldiers has become protracted and expensive. It said that the SANDF has in the last eight months paid over R5 million per month to about 860 soldiers suspended since the August 26 riot at the Union Buildings over service conditions.
Meanwhile, the state broadcaster reports this morning that the SA Security Forces Union (SASFU) is calling on the Defence and Military Veterans department to extend the duration of the Military Skills Development System from two to five years.
It reports this is one of the resolutions of a two-day provincial Sasfu conference in the Western Cape. SASFU provincial secretary Aaron Mtana says the current period is not sufficient to empower the youth to get employment. Mtana says it takes six months to finish the basics training phase, and three more months will be needed to qualify for deployment.
On other issues, SASFU says it would support a march, not a strike, to highlight its grievances with the department. The pronouncement comes after their counterparts, SANDU reportedly threatened to go on strike over delayed payments of salary increases. Speaking at the end of the conference in the Western Cape, SASFU national president Bheki Mvomvo, a SA Navy lieutenant commander, said they wanted to meet SANDU soon to discuss their common grievances.