Case against 58 soldiers dropped

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Johannesburg - The case against 58 soldiers implicated in a salary protest at the Union Buildings in 2009 was dropped in the military court in Heidelberg, Gauteng, Sandu said on Thursday.

SA National Defence Union national secretary Pikkie Greeff said justice had been served after it was found that the soldiers had been granted a leave of absence on the day.

“The evidence presented by the State in this trial was so weak that the court found it insufficient to even constitute a prima facie case against the soldiers concerned.”

He said the proof was in the SANDF's own documentation.

“This belies the public claims, made all along by the SANDF, that these soldiers had deserted their bases and had thus endangered their own country,” Greeff said.

“Clearly, the SANDF lied publicly about this issue.”

SANDF spokesman Brig-Gen Xolani Mabanga could not immediately confirm the court's decision.

Greeff called on the SANDF to recall more than 500 soldiers who had allegedly been placed on special leave as a result of the protest, back to work.

Mabanga said the soldiers were recalled in 2012 and had chosen not to return to work, on Greeff's advice.

“They are not on special leave. They have defied coming back to work.”

In August 2009, more than a thousand soldiers intended to protest over pay and working conditions, but an 11th hour court application by the SANDF saw the Pretoria march banned and permission granted by the metro police cancelled.

According to television footage, shortly after that a group of people, thought to be protesting soldiers, was seen scaling the fence at the Union Buildings, and the interior of a police car was set alight, with police firing rubber bullets to bring the group under control.

The protesters were reportedly trying to take their grievances to President Jacob Zuma, whose office is in the buildings, and who was also commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

Three separate cases were established to deal with the matter.

Mabanga said after the protest the SANDF had called on all soldiers who had taken part in the protest to come forward.

Some did and those who did not were assumed to be defying instructions. The SANDF sought to administratively discharge those who had failed to come forward, in one case.

A second case, which was heard on Wednesday, addressed those accused of being absent without leave (AWOL) on the day.

The third case would address those who were found to have taken part in the protest itself, Mabanga said.

Greeff said the two other cases would still be heard. - Sapa


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