CSANDF briefing raises more questions than answers around Union Buildings protest

The only positive to come out of a national briefing called at short notice by South African National Defence Force (SANDF) Chief, General Solly Shoke, is that soldiers on so-called special leave in the aftermath of the Union Buildings protest back in 2009 are to be “recalled” to service. The country’s top soldier couldn’t – or wouldn’t - divulge any details as to when and where the 507 soldiers would report and, more importantly, whether they would still be answerable under military law for their alleged actions. Instead, media representatives in Pretoria and Cape Town had to hear Shoke tell them that “one and one didn’t always add up to two in the military” and “yes, they will not necessarily report to their home bases or units”. He was not even prepared to say when the “recalled “soldiers would have to report. “Members will be instructed individually as to when and where they will be required to report,” he said without divulging any further detail. It was a singularly unimpressive performance and gave the appearance that the military will somehow still get its pound of flesh, legally speaking, from the soldiers who took part in the march which was not approved by the responsible local authority, Tshwane Metro. He also was not prepared to say how much the SANDF and the Department of Defence had spent on paying salaries for the “special leave” soldiers (estimated by the SA National Defence Union to be in the region of R6 million a month) or what the spend on legal fees was for the numerous court appearances, none of which earned a ruling in favour of the SANDF. The South African military machine is run on taxpayers’ money and the taxpayer has a right to know how it is being spent, especially in this instance which has all the hallmarks of being yet another where the adjectives “unnecessary and wasteful” can be applied, until a better explanation is forthcoming.


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