The Pretoria High Court has overturned a previous judgment reinstating 36 soldiers who were dismissed by the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) for being absent for 30 days. The Times reports that the soldiers were dismissed in March 2019. They then approached the same court to appeal the SANDF’s decision to terminate their contracts.
The SANDF terminated their contracts in terms the Defence Act, which stipulates that “once a member absents himself or herself form official duty without permission for more than 30 days, the operation of law kicks in and it is deemed that the member is dismissed”.
The High Court upheld their appeal and they were reinstated retrospectively from the date of their termination.
Prior to their dismissal, the soldiers were part of a conclusion of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the SANDF and the Cuban military’s department of defence, which involved the training of South African members of the air force, navy, army and South African Military Health Services (SAMHS).
The report says the 36 soldiers in the matter before court were medical students of the SAMHS who were sent to Cuba to be trained as doctors, specifically in military medicine.
In reaching her decision to overturn the reinstatement of the soldiers, judge Wendy Hughes said: “From 11 February 2019 to 25 February 2019, the appellants had made no less than four attempts to get the respondents back into their classes.”
She said the soldiers had been given opportunities to make submissions on why they should not be discharged, “but were dogmatic and dug in their heels, relying on their response of the 13 February, 2019 – even when they were advised that same was not sufficient”.
“Evidently on the respondents in respect of the return to South Africa, the respondents had by then absented themselves from their classes for more than 30 days, without permission.”
Full report in The Times