Army says it will not tolerate ill-discipline

The army will not be held to ransom by mutinous behaviour from soldiers, chief of the army Lieutenant General Solly Shoke said on Friday.

Briefing the media at the army training college in Pretoria, Shoke said violent protests by soldiers at the Union Buildings last week were a breach of the code of conduct and amounted to mutiny.

“This is the code of conduct all of us have pledged to abide [by],” he said, holding up the laminated card given to each soldier.

“In the military you enforce discipline; that must be clear because this is an institution where you should not take chances. It is unfortunate such behaviour can tarnish the behaviour of the rest.”

He said in other countries mutinous behaviour could lead to being placed in front of a firing squad. However, in South Africa immediate dismissal was mandated.

About 2 000 soldiers who allegedly took part in the protest last Wednesday had received letters of dismissal.

“If a person is out of order, then you discipline him, finish and klaar.”

Shoke said while due process would be followed, he refused to accept any mediation with the unions.

“I don’t mediate.
I am a commander and I will take a command decision. No army on earth will mediate with an ill-disciplined solider.

“I will not mediate with ill-disciplined soldiers,” he said.

Meanwhile, the South African National Defence Union (Sandu) said it intends asking a high court to set aside the dismissals.

This would be avoided if the union was furnished with the legal grounds on which the dismissals were based.

Shoke said about 300 representations by dismissed soldiers had already been received, but as public servants they were welcome to attempt to seek redress from the courts.

Sandu was also set to appeal an 11th-hour court application that saw the planned protest over poor pay and working conditions banned and the permission granted by the metro police cancelled.

Shortly after the court’s ruling last week, a group of soldiers scaled a fence at the Union Buildings and damaged several cars. Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at them.

Shoke said discipline was a high priority in the army and the public should not be wary in the aftermath of the protest.

“It is clear that some of you were gripped by fear of the unknown. As chief of the army there is nothing to fear,” he said.

Shoke also reiterated that Thursday’s arrest of 38 soldiers at Doornkop military base, south of Johannesburg, was not related to the protest action but for other disciplinary action, including blocking of the N12 highway last year and a march to Luthuli House earlier this year.—Sapa

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