Union Buildings protestors’ trial resumes on Monday


Another chapter in the ongoing military legal drama that has unfolded since the August 2009 illegal march on the Union Buildings by about 1 000 SA National Defence Force (SANDF) members will start on Monday at the SA Army Gymnasium in Heidelberg.

Two hundred and twenty-three soldiers have already made one appearance on charges brought in terms of the SANDF Military Disciplinary Code at the southern Gauteng military base.
“The resumption of proceedings follows the postponement by the presiding judge of a military court on July 9 after hearing arguments from lawyers for the defence and prosecution,” SANDF director corporate communications Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga said.

An indication that the drawn-out legalities which have hallmarked the issue to date might be reaching an end stage comes from his statement that the “presiding judge has indicated no further postponement will be granted”.

The resumption of court proceedings on Monday will mean yet another attempt to get the legal process underway. This all goes back to then-Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s decision to put the up to 1 000 soldiers allegedly involved in the protest march on special leave days after the incident, which left property and vehicles damaged.

Subsequent to that, SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke issued an instruction revoking the special leave after a North Gauteng High Court ruling instructed that the marchers be disciplined through the military justice system.

An appeal was made via printed and electronic media to soldiers to return to their home bases and units and while some responded others did not. Those who did then attended pre-trial hearings at 121 SA Infantry Battalion at Mtubatuba in KwaZulu-Natal.

There is no indication from the SANDF as to whether the 223 are the only soldiers who will face charges in connection with the protest or whether attempts are still underway to track down others apparently involved.

SA National Defence Union (Sandu) Western Cape spokesman Tim Flack earlier this year told defenceWeb the military trade union had been informed “any number” of soldiers placed on special leave had returned home and have taken up civilian work.
“I don’t think they will go back to the military,” he said at the time.

All those who have appeared at Heidelberg responded to the instruction issued by Shoke following the court ruling.