Soldiers dismissed in 2009 for misconduct will be charged under the military court system, the defence and military veterans department said on Friday.
“The Supreme Court of Appeal process will not continue against the 1300 soldiers. It will be handed over to the military justice system,” ministerial spokesman Sonwabo Mbananga said.
“ That process will determine what sanction, if any would be handed down to those found to have transgressed.”
Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula decided, based on legal advice, and in consultation with the Chief of the SA National Defence Force (Sandf) to withdraw the cases, the department said in a statement.
In August 2009 soldiers staged an illegal march to the Union Buildings, wanting to hand a memorandum about a salary dispute to the presidency. Some of them tried to get into the perimeter of the Union Buildings by scaling a fence and the police intervened.
Former defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu promised stern action and sent provisional termination notices to around 1000 soldiers.
The SA National Defence Union (Sandu) said it hoped the decision would be the first step in resolving several other labour issues in the department.
“Sandu commends the minister on displaying quality leadership which up to now has been lacking in the department of defence,” the union said in a statement.
Sandu said Sisulu's decision cost the country millions.
“The result of Sisulu's obstinate insistence has been that up to now thousands of soldiers have awaited their fates at home with full pay for three years, costing the country in excess of R300 million and legal fees which by now already amounts to R3 million.”
The soldiers who had been forced to stay at home had missed out on benefits and career progression, the union added.
In 2009, Sandu took the matter to the High Court in Pretoria, challenging the manner in which the department terminated the soldiers' employment.
The court ruled in Sandu's favour, saying the procedure adopted was not fair. The department took the matter to the Supreme Court of Appeal after a leave to appeal application was not granted in the High Court in Pretoria.
Mapisa-Nqakula alerted the court on July 25 that the department would not proceed with the matter. - Sapa