There is still no end in sight to the lengthy process of Military Court hearings against soldiers involved in the August 2009 protest at the Union Buildings, with an indication of what happens next only expected in April.
SA National Defence Union (Sandu) national secretary Pikkie Greeff said the hearing, which started at the Army Gymnasium in Heidelberg last October but was halted shortly thereafter following a court order, was still on hold.
The military trade union has arranged legal representation for 120 plus of its members who allegedly took part in the protest that saw vehicles and property damaged.
“While there are many questions we wants answers to from the SA National Defence Force’s (SANDF) legal services before the hearings continue, another worrying aspect of the Union Buildings protest is the amount of money being paid in salaries to the 600 plus soldiers who are now well into year four of special leave.
“By Sandu’s estimate around R6 million a month is being paid to them to sit at home. There are many who want to return to duty and we have reports of soldiers who have used this time valuably. I know of at least one soldier on suspended leave who has obtained a legal degree in the time he hasn’t been allowed to wear a uniform.”
Others have taken up farming, opened small businesses and “sadly, some have lost direction and taken to either alcohol or drugs,” Greeff said.
He hopes the information Sandu is seeking by way of its successful court order against SANDF legal services will be available in April.
“Once this information has been thoroughly scrutinised the Sandu legal team will look at options to provide the best results for our members.”
Marking time on the Union Buildings hearing is not the only legal matter Sandu is currently waiting for direction on.
SA Air Force (SAAF) Lieutenant Colonel Christine Anderson, one of the officers implicated in last March’s Guptagate affair that saw a chartered jet land at AFB Waterkloof, is also kicking her heels on special leave waiting for her hearing to restart.
She is being represented by Sandu and Greeff said there was, as of today, no indication from SANDF legal services as to when the hearing would resume.
“We were told a date would be announced this month (January) but we haven’t heard anything,” Greeff said.
Both these cases are high profile ones for SANDF legal services, which according to the 2012/13 Department of Defence and Military Veterans annual report managed only a 14.99% actual achievement in litigation services and capability during the period under review.
The report noted this was “an under achievement” and pointed out that “cases are ongoing and may sometimes only be finalised over an extended period of time”.
Greeff wryly acknowledged the Union Buildings hearing was another “likely” to be added to the list of cases taking an extended time to be finalised.