Johannesburg - Former SANDF reservists are desperate to be remunerated after money was deducted from their salaries for one year on the grounds they were “defrauding the state”.
Employed under the department’s Military Health Services, their salaries were cut in half from May 2017 to May 2018, although their working hours remained the same.
An internal investigation, together with the military’s ombudsman, recommended that they must be reimbursed, as they were innocent.
Yet two years after the investigation was concluded, 39 of the 45 affected workers are still unemployed and they have not been refunded.
They also claimed they were promised permanent jobs.
Ten of the affected employees shared their experiences of being cash-strapped and carrying feelings of hopelessness. 37-year-old Vincent Sebenya said he spent years serving the force only to be “discarded” in this heartless manner.
“What makes things worse for us is that in 2015, they made us write sworn statements that when they give us permanent posts, we won’t swop departments. I spent five years waiting to be made permanent and didn’t look for any other job because this was promised to us,” said Sebenya who worked as a protection personnel and was the sole breadwinner living with his ailing mother.
In a document seen by the Sunday Independent, the amount owed each employee was about R110000, but a certain “Colonel JD McNally refused to capture these grievances for the repayments”, it says.
Also that, “the SANDF and the Military Ombudsman has not reverted to members in relation to their grievances,” which indicates that this matter has gone cold and that leaves the aggrieved members in limbo.
“It is clear that intimidation tactics are being used by getting rid of us, especially since the director HR instructed management not to remove us from the system as that will make it hard to repay us, and yet the total opposite has happened. We were fired,” said the devastated Sebenya.
Freddy Majola from Sebokeng questioned how they could have defrauded the state when their salaries were paid through the finance department.
“Ours was to do our allocated work and get paid what was due to us.
“How then are we guilty when it’s clear that it is within the SANDF where the problem lies,” he said.
Sesi Mabena from Hammanskraal worked in the force for 10 years and said management made a lot of promises like the permanent posts.
“There is nothing as painful as knowing that the little people will again lose against the state because no one looks out for us. This is all unfair,” said Mabena.
Nomphi Thabethe, 39, had to revert to selling atchar and tissues.
The single mother said her children’s school fees were due and she doesn’t know where the money would come from.
Colonel Ronald Maseko said in terms of the Reserve Force policy, such members may remain employed between a period of three to six months under a renewable call-up contract. Their call-up or employment is determined by the needs of the organisation.
“These members are aware of what their call-up contract entails. It should be noted that this is not an unfair dismissal or termination of contract.
“The members are still on the Reserve Force system, however, their rotation period has come to an end.
“The South African Military Health Service can confirm that the matter has been resolved. The administration process to pay their overdue salaries is under way,” said Maseko.
According to Jaden Cramer, an associate at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, it must be noted that members of the SANDF are excluded from the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 (LRA), but they will still have protection under section 23 - right to fair labour practices - and 33, right to just administrative action) of the Constitution.
“Regards should be had to the contract of employment, however it is trite law that statutory monies are monies that must be paid to an employee regardless of how the employment relationship is terminated.
“These monies include, salaries, leave pay, notice pay and severance pay.
“However, a lot of contracts of employment allow for set offs and deductions,” said Cramer.