THE South African National Defence Union (Sandu) has welcomed what it calls a "massive climb-down" by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in recalling to duty the more than 500 members who had been on special leave since 2008.
Last month‚ the union demanded that its 509 members on special leave be returned to their bases and units‚ to start serving SA again.
This followed a finding by a disciplinary tribunal held in Heidelberg‚ Gauteng, last month‚ that the SANDF did not have the right to attempt to hold disciplinary hearings outside of the military justice court system.
The SANDF had attempted to dismiss‚ without any hearing‚ soldiers accused of misconduct when they marched at the Union Buildings on August 26‚ 2009.
Sandu said‚ having forfeited the three-year period it had to try those members in a military court‚ the SANDF decided to subject the soldiers to a disciplinary hearing similar to that in the civilian world.
During the proceedings before former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo‚ Sandu successfully objected that the SANDF had no constitutional and legal right to evade its own military court system.
On Tuesday‚ chief of the SANDF Solly Shoke announced that the members were to be recalled to the military.
Shoke said the decision was made "because I am tired of having to pay these troops while they sit at home doing nothing".
However‚ Sandu on Wednesday said its lawyers had demanded the recalling of its members to their posts last week.
The union said the fact that SANDF chose to ignore the legal correspondence in this matter spoke volumes about the integrity of the SANDF management.
"The fact is that‚ the SANDF‚ under General Shoke‚ had for 80 months perpetuated an unlawful and malicious campaign of attempts to fire the soldiers.
"Twice‚ the SANDF lost in the Supreme Court of Appeal. In sheer desperation‚ the SANDF refused to trial these soldiers in a military court‚ as the rights of every soldiers dictates‚" Sandu national secretary Pikkie Greeff said.
Sandu also demanded that Shoke apologise to all special leave members and their families.
The union also demanded that the chief apologise to SA for spending R570m of taxpayers’ money on this aborted attempt at saving political face.
PICTURE: Suspended soldiers from the South African National Defence Force who marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria in August 2009 have been paid a total of R7m a month for the past six years. Picture: SOWETAN