A group of South African National Defence Force (SANDF) reservists gathered at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Tuesday, airing their grievances which include jobs and the release of their colleagues.
"There is a march that was requested by the reserve members of the South African National Defence Force. In terms of their [military police] authority and everything, they ended up arresting our fellow comrades in arms. Even now, they are detained without being charged," Lance Corporal Thabiso "Shots" Shotolo said speaking to African News Agency (ANA) in Pretoria.
"We are being told they will be charged tomorrow, or their release will be tomorrow. Even now, we are still frustrated because they cannot be detained without being charged. Let them be charged, then we will have a fair understanding as to the name and why they are charged."
He said the group of aggrieved soldiers only wanted to submit a petition at the seat of the South African government, the Union Buildings, but their appeals had been turned down.
"Here [at Union Buildings] we have been told that our memorandum won't be taken," said Shotolo.
The group alleged that members of the military police pounced on them as they were organising their protest, in Pretoria CBD, and arrested around 30 people.
Before 7pm, the aggrieved soldiers had left the Union Buildings, and headed to the military police base inside the vast Thaba Tshwane military base.
Earlier, the SANDF said it has been “reliably informed” of the impending protest march by some members of its Reserve Force (RF) component.
“The information at hand suggests that the protest march is aimed at addressing RF service conditions as well as the alleged corruption with the call-up of RF members,” said a statement from the department of defence.
“The SANDF has already started a process to respond to all of the challenges facing the reserves …”
The department said the Board of Inquiry (BOI) instituted by Chief of the SA Army in August 2017, in terms of Convening Order no 20/2017, with the Director Army Reserves as the president was investigating, among other issues, to identify whether processes and procedures have indeed been compromised and to what extent.
Since the institution of the BOI more than 30 members (Regular Force and Reserve Force) have testified as witnesses regarding various issues. Last week more members indicated they want to testify.
In the meantime, the Military Police (MP) are busy with the process of laying charges against some of the alleged perpetrators.
“Once the findings of the BOI have been finalised the Military Police will also be involved in the process to further investigate certain issues and charge implicated members,” the department said.
“It must be borne in mind that the SANDF has formal internal structures in place to address all grievances, alleged corrupt practices and or any other transgression(s) reported against or by any member of the SANDF and or public.
SANDF spokesperson Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi said he was aware that some of the “people” had been detained but was not certain about the figures.
He promised to revert to ANA with the actual numbers of the detained reservists.