The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) has taken a tough stance against members who plan to attend Julius Malema’s address in Lenasia on Wednesday – but has emphatically denied that it has put its military bases on high alert.
The Times reported earlier that military bases were placed on high alert on Tuesday night in anticipation of the axed ANC Youth League leader’s arrival near one of its bases in the south of Johannesburg.
“I’m not aware of bases being on high alert. High alert for what? Members have been instructed that they operate as normal. Everybody should be on duty,” said Defence Department spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini.
He said the military code of conduct would apply should any member leave to attend Malema’s address “at a nearby community hall” and would be disciplined.
“They are expected at work and will have to explain where they were because there is a code of conduct,” said Dlamini.
Malema’s plan to address soldiers has been described a “potentially dangerous” by a defence consultant and analyst who said the expelled youth leader had no business near the country’s army bases.
Malema has raised the political temperature by addressing mineworkers and calling for a national strike, appearing at Marikana’s Lonmin mine and at Gold Fields KDC gold mine in Carletonville.
Defence analyst Helmoed Heitman said normal protocol when visiting a military base or to address SANDF members required the permission of the Defence Minister or the President, who is the “Commander in Chief” of the armed forces.
Heitman said certain politicians such as the minister or members of Parliament’s oversight committee on defence would normally visit defence force bases.
“For MPs for example it would be normal courtesy to ask for permission. This (Malema’s meeting) is not necessarily disastrous, but we have to watch it,” said Heitman.
He said if one member attended the meeting at “the very least” they would be guilty of being absent without leave.
“If a group of them get up and walk off it would mutiny, which is punishable with a long prison sentence of no less than 10 years, in any country in the world. When a bunch of people get together it’s one of the most dangerous things to happen,” said Heitman.
He said most issues causing unhappiness among SANDF members had either been addressed were being addressed.
“Those that are disgruntled probably shouldn’t be in the army in the first place,” said Heitman.
He said Wednesday was a normal workday and "troops are busy".
DA spokesman on defence David Maynier said Malema was “playing a dangerous game with the SANDF”.
Maynier said any soldiers who attend the meeting must be disciplined by the SANDF in terms of the military disciplinary code.
“The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, is absolutely correct to take a hard line against Julius Malema’s planned address to soldiers outside the Doornkop/Lenz military base in Gauteng.
“The fact is that Julius Malema is playing a very dangerous game by trying to exploit poor service conditions in the defence force in his political battles ahead of the ANC’s 2012 elective conference,” said Maynier.
He said the country should not forget that service conditions at the Doornkop/Lenz military base were described by the National Defence Force Service Commission as “slum-like” and that the base was the epicentre of the violent protest by soldiers at the Union Buildings in 2009.