/ 28 March 2013

Defence union wants to sue SANDF

Defence Union Wants To Sue Sandf
A woman has been reinstated by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) after she was denied employment because of her HIV status.

This comes after the defence force put out a statement on Thursday condemning the union’s statements on the Central African Republic (CAR) incident, which saw 13 soldiers die in combat and 27 injured.

The statement called on Sandu to “stop its irresponsible, childish and ill informed comments and statements about the loss of lives of our members in the Central African Republic”.

“This is the time to mourn the death of those who volunteered to join the SANDF and demonstrated their patriotism and willingness to serve and defend the country. These heroes made the supreme sacrifice in pursuit of peace and stability in the continent,” it said.

The statement asked why the union’s leadership had left the defence force when it was going through transformation and said the union had been formed to “fight transformation of the new SANDF”.

It also accused the Sandu of point-scoring, politicking and misleading South Africans and “clinging to an old apartheid legacy”.

On Friday, the union demanded that the SANDF retract the statements and notified the defence force of its intention to sue for defamation.

“[Certain] words, in the context of the media statement, are wrongful and defamatory of Sandu, its management and leadership in that they were intended and were understood by readers of the publication that Sandu is not recognised by the SANDF, that Sandu’s management and leadership are dishonest and that Sandu is irresponsible, childish, ill informed, racist and disrespectful of the lives lost in the following respects,” the union’s lawyers said.

The union’s national secretary Pikkie Greeff said the defence force had made several unfounded statements.

“None of the leadership ever left the defense force in 1994. The entire leadership of the union were all in the defense force prior to 1994 and they're still there now. I'm only one out of the defense force because I was poached by the union to serve in its legal section 14 years ago,” he said.

According to Greeff, 77% of the union’s 15 500 members are black.

If the matter goes to court, the defence force will have to prove that its statements were either true or in the public interest.

“If they are able to prove what they're saying, let them come to court and prove it,” he said.

Greeff said the statement from the defence force appeared to be an attempt to gain back some ground, following negative media reports concerning the defence force’s handling of the CAR incident.

“It’s quite clear the way the media and the public opinion is going is that the defence force has a battle on its hands to try to justify this [CAR] incident,” he said.

“They're losing the PR war and are looking for scapegoats to deflect the questions the media are asking.”

Earlier this week, union representatives were prevented form visiting wounded soldiers at 1 Military Hospital.

SANDF spokesperson Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga, told the Mail & Guardian that the defence force would not back down and apologise for its statements.

“If Sandu wants to sue the defense force let them go ahead. We're not going to apologise for what we said,” he said.