Union Buildings protest trial still dragging on


Soldiers who apparently unlawfully went on a protest march to the Union Buildings in 2009 have been split into three distinct groups for legal process in terms of the Military Justice System.

Two hundred and twenty-three soldiers face charges relating to being absent without leave (AWOL) and public violence. This group’s legal proceedings started last year when a Military Court was convened at the SA Army Gymnasium in Heidelberg. It has been adjourned and proceedings are set to restart again on May 20, according to SA National Defence Force (SANDF) spokesman Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga.
“A separate group of 32 face charges of mutiny and disobeying a lawful order,” he said but did not specify when proceedings against them will start or if they are underway.
“The six hundred and fifty SANDF members originally placed on special leave after the illegal march to the Union Buildings in August 2009 failed to obey a legal order which recalled them from special leave by August 16, 2012,” Mabanga said, adding administrative discharge decided on for them by the SANDF High Command was ruled to be unlawful by the High Court.
“The matter has been taken to the Supreme Court of Appeal with a date for the appeal hearing still to be set.”

According to him all 650 have been receiving salaries since being placed on special leave. “Their case has been dragging due to interdicts initiated by the SA National Defence Union (Sandu).”

Pikkie Greeff, national secretary of the military trade union, previously told defenceWeb it was costing the SANDF “around R6 million a month” in salaries for the soldiers on special leave.
“The delays in the hearing taking place in Heidelberg are due to administrative matters between the defence and the prosecution and have nothing to do with either the financial status of the case or the appearance of the members before a Military Court,” Mabanga told defenceWeb.

Immediately after the march, which saw property damaged and vandalised outside the administrative seat of government, more than a thousand soldiers were effectively suspended when they were placed on special leave for their apparent involvement in the march. A preliminary investigation saw charges against 72 withdrawn due to insufficient evidence. Charges against another two were also withdrawn because they had died.

Asked earlier this year how long legal proceedings would carry on for Mabanga said SANDF Legal Services “planned to proceed as a marathon trial with adjournments envisaged as and when circumstances dictate”.