SANDF members demand a better deal

South African Security Forces Union deputy chairperson Vuyo Ndaba with members Current Rumba and George Mabala in Khayelitsha.

Freedom Day on April 27 marks the liberation of this country and its people from a long history of colonialism and apartheid.

But as the country celebrated 23 years of freedom last Thursday, not everyone had reason to be happy.

Some of the country’s soldiers feel that their needs are not being addressed.

In a meeting with journalists on Freedom Day at Town Two, Khayelitsha, the South African Security Forces Union (SASFU) raised concerns about the SANDF and said there was a decline in morale among members.

They want their commander-in-chief, President Jacob Zuma, to address their needs before celebrating the freedom that they claimed they fought for.

The union members said the defence force facilities were in a bad state. The members demand that the president implement the Sisulu Plan, which was recommended by the Defence Service Commission of Inquiry in 2013.

The union’s media liaison officer Current Rumba said it was recommended, among other things, that they get housing, creches for their children on the military bases and salary adjustments.

Every soldier should also be able to convert his training into an academic qualification.

“All these did not happen. We are left behind. Our children cannot go to universities.

“Army members have no decent houses as if they did not fight for this country,” he said.

Mr Rumba questioned the significance of democracy if the soldiers could not have houses, bonds and creches for their children on the military force bases.

The union said the president was the only one who could implement the Sisulu plan.

The members from the Khayelitsha and Wynberg military bases said a change in the national Minister of Defence had not been good for them.

SASFU’s deputy chairperson Vuyo Ndaba said the then Minister of Defence Lindiwe Sisulu had been ready to help them.

They claimed that Ms Sisulu had the force’s interests at heart, more than the current minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

“After the ruction in Pretoria (Ms Sisulu) went abroad to do research and to find out how other countries deal with soldiers. She established the commission so she can know better.

“She came to us and engaged us. She was really a people’s person,” he said. The members said they felt excluded from the country’s affairs and they made a plea to all their members to rally behind the union in support of the transformation within the defence force.

Another member, George Mbala, said he hoped the minister would mention their needs in the coming budget speech.