The SA National Defence Union (Sandu), in the person of its national secretary Pikkie Greeff, has taken exception to a statement issued in connection with the ongoing trial of soldiers who protested outside the Union Buildings in 2009 and is seeking half a million Rand in compensation.
The statement in question, issued by SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Director: Corporate Communications, Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga, relates to the trial of at least some of the more than 1 000 soldiers who it is alleged disobeyed orders and took part in the August 2009 march.
A letter delivered to Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula; SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke; Defence Secretary Dr Sam Gulube and Mabanga demands payment of R500 000 within 30 days of delivery failing which “action will be instituted against you without further notice”.
Greeff’s lawyers point out, among others, six instances in the statement which can be considered defamatory.
These include calling the military trade union’s national secretary “mischievous and irresponsible”, naming him as the person behind the delays experienced during the trial and accusing him of misleading South Africans about “SANDF affairs”.
The lawyer’s letter also maintains the statement asking Greeff to “demonstrate to the people of South Africa he did not leave the SANDF because of his bitterness or he is not in favour of the transformation of the SANDF” is also defamatory.
These, plus other parts of Mabanga’s statement, are, according to the lawyers, “wrongful and defamatory”. The lawyers also point out Greeff is truthful, honest, responsible and patriotic and not the opposite as intimated in the SANDF statement.
In addition to claiming monetary damages the Sandu general secretary also wants the SANDF to issue a media statement retracting defamatory remarks made in the March 18 statement.
After restating at the beginning of last week, the proceedings in the Military Court sitting at the SA Army Gymnasium in Heidelberg were put on hold until May 20 to allow “all parties involved enough time to prepare” Mabanga said in the March 18 statement.
The trial proceedings of soldiers who were allegedly part on the August 2009 march on the Union Buildings have been characterised by numerous delays during pre-trial hearings. Further delays have been brought about in the actual trial because insufficient information relating to the charges against soldiers was provided and this particular question was taken up in the North Gauteng High Court by Sandu.
If found guilty the handful of soldiers due to appear before the Military Court again on May 20 could face administrative discharge from the SANDF.