/ 12 September 2009

Sisulu slams ‘irresponsible’ Cosatu

Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has criticised Cosatu for claiming her disciplining soldiers violated the Constitution.

”What Cosatu is saying is that when we say soldiers cannot carry pangas and petrol bombs to the Union Buildings, the office of the president and their commander in chief, we are violating human
rights and the spirit of the Constitution,” she said in a statement on Thursday.

”I do not think any person who respects the Constitution can make those irresponsible statements.”

She said the trade union federation needed to understand the facts and the reason for the postponement of the matter in the high court in Pretoria this week.

The South African National Defence Union (Sandu) on Wednesday took Sisulu and the chief of the SANDF to court to stop its members from being dismissed, and to declare the procedure adopted in dismissal notices served on them unconstitutional.

After several hours of negotiations, the minister late on Wednesday afternoon undertook to postpone the dismissal of Sandu members who took part in the August 26 march at the Union
Buildings, pending the finalisation of the union’s urgent application in court.

The minister and chief of the defence force were given two months to file further papers in the application; whereafter Sandu would also be able to supplement its papers.

Cosatu had welcomed this and described it as a ”victory for human rights and the South African Constitution”.

It said belonging to a trade union was a constitutional right, after the government said it was mulling banning trade unions in the defence force.

”The minister of defence and military veterans must learn the lessons of South African history. Apartheid governments repeatedly tried to thwart efforts to unionise the whole of the public sector, but were forced to retreat,” Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said.

Sisulu said Cosatu should have criticised Sandu’s leadership for taking part in the illegal march.

”Cosatu must address Sandu. We must state it very clear[ly] that unions who have no respect for national security and the military command will have no place in the defence force.”

Sisulu believed ”restoring discipline and the maintenance of national security are non-negotiable”. They were constitutional imperatives.

The department had been advised by its legal team that the seriousness of the case justified approaching the judge president to appoint a full bench to hear the matter.

”This will ensure that the matter is given the special attention and treated with the seriousness it deserves,” it said in a statement on Thursday.

”South Africans have a reasonable expectation to live in a country where the defence force not only protects the territorial integrity of the republic, but also evokes confidence by being exemplary and disciplined in its conduct.” -Sapa