"The female members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) involved are entitled by their contract of service to full maternity benefits," South African National Defence Union (Sandu) spokesperson Pikkie Greeff said. "This makes the conduct of the commanding officer concerned all the more ludicrous and obscene."
In a letter written to Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula on Tuesday, the union called on her to suspend the commanding officer, failing which it would help the women approach the Equality Court.
SANDF spokesperson Xolani Mabanga said he was not aware of the letter. On Monday the officer called in at least seven women instructors at the base and reprimanded them "heavily" for falling pregnant, Sandu wrote in the letter.
The women were told they were a disgrace to the defence force and would be transferred to other units as they were "unwelcome" at the base. "The officer also told them that he would personally apologise to the new recruits for the 'poor quality of instructors' who fall pregnant," the union wrote.
A pregnant trainee at the base committed suicide allegedly as a result of the treatment, the union claimed. Mabanga said Sandu was aware of rules and regulations governing the behaviour of defence force members.
"Most of those in charge at Sandu were once members of the defence force and are fully aware of the rules regarding the conduct of officers as per the Defence Act." He said the union had a personal agenda against the Oudtshoorn base and its commanding officer.
"There are females in many other bases who fall pregnant. Why are they concerned about Oudtshoorn only?" Mabanga asked.
He said the union was fully aware why the woman trainee committed suicide at the base. "I do not want to discuss the suicide out of respect for the woman's family … she left a suicide note, the contents of which the union is fully aware [of]." – Sapa