Johannesburg - About 30 soldiers in civilian dress danced and sang outside the Lenesia Recreation Centre, south of Johannesburg on Wednesday, awaiting the arrival of former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema.
One of the soldiers, Shakes Mogediri, said the group wanted Malema to help them get back their jobs with the SA National Defence Force.
“We have all been on special leave since August 2009, about 1100 of us. No-one even told us why we were put on special leave,” he said.
“All we want is for Malema to help us go back to work. We have had no money for three years. I have a wife and children to look after.”
Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said in an SABC radio interview on Wednesday that Malema seemed bent on turning soldiers against the state.
“You can't just go on and on and on, and be going around mobilising funeral gatherings and agitating people to become ungovernable,” she said.
“What are the consequences? I wish I knew. What I do know is that any responsible citizen in South Africa cannot associate him or herself with a person who wants to agitate and mobilise members of the SANDF against the state because they have concerns,” said Mapisa-Nqakula.
SANDF members should use the current structures in place if they wanted to raise concerns.
She said it was not clear in what capacity Malema would address soldiers.
“I do not know and I don't see what value he is going to add in trying to resolve their problems. I don't see in what way he can do that.”
The minister said Malema had been “instigating people” in the past few weeks, in an apparent reference to his address to mineworkers at the volatile Lonmin Platinum mine in Rustenburg, and, more recently, his call to Goldfields miners to strike until the National Union of Mineworkers leaders step down.
Forty-five people have died at Lonmin's Marikana mine in labour unrest in the past month.
“It cannot be allowed to happen in the SANDF,” said the minister.
“It cannot be that we allow an ordinary citizen to stand up and want to instigate and want to agitate members of the SANDF, which is what has happened in Marikana, which is what has happened in the mining industry among those workers.
“It's not acceptable, it is wrong, it is incorrect, and it is not going to be right. My view is that they are all traits... they are all indications that this is counter-revolutionary, I'm sorry,” said Mapisa-Nqakula.
She warned soldiers attending the Malema address that there would be consequences if they did not report for work on Wednesday.
“Our memory is very short and we would probably have forgotten where we come from. People died for this freedom... people died for this country, it's been very, very costly.
“I think it is too risky for anyone who wants to agitate members of SANDF to turn against their own government because they have concerns - because effectively that is what it means,” she said.
The Friends of the Youth League said Malema would address the soldiers after he was invited by them to listen to their grievances. - Sapa