File picture

Cape Town - A last-minute “stay of execution” has been filed to keep three top South African National Defence Force officials out of prison.

This was after a court order was granted on Tuesday to have the trio arrested when they were found to be in contempt of court by a judge at the Pretoria High Court.

“They were meant to be arrested on Tuesday but none of them could be located,” said SA National Defence Union secretary, Pikkie Greeff. “The Chief of the Air Force has been tracked down to an airbase in Pretoria but we still can’t find the others.”

At the time of going to print, members of the local Sheriff’s office were on their way to the airfield to put the official behind bars, added Greeff.

The Chief of the Air Force, Lieutenant-General Zimpande (Zakes) Msimang, the Chief of the SA National Defence Force, General Solly Shoke, and Defence and Military Veterans secretary Sam Gulube are all wanted for being in contempt of a court order demanding they re-employ four soldiers.

The soldiers had been let go in 2012 after their fixed-term contracts expired, despite there being 32 vacancies in the force at the time.

In the court case that followed, the defence force’s brass was ordered to find positions for the four soldiers by last month - which they failed to do.

Defence force spokesman Brigadier-General Xolani Mabanga told the Cape Argus on Wednesday morning: “Our attorneys are filing an interdict against the arrests.”

He explained that they were unfair as there was already a court date set for July 22 for the officials to explain why the soldiers had not been reinstated.

[email protected]

Cape Argus and Sapa