Fighting has broken out between members of the South African National Defence Union (SANDU) and South African police on the lawns of the Union Buildings and in the streets of Pretoria.
About 3,000 members of the union ignored police barricades and stormed through them in the South African capital, Pretoria today. Independent Online reported that the SANDU members broke through gates and forced their way onto the Union Buildings lawn demanding that President Jacob Zuma attend to their demands.
The defence ministry had obtained a court interdict to prevent the march, but the illegal march went ahead anyway.
Union members said they were not receiving a living wage, and one told South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) news that after 15 years of service, this was unacceptable and they would continue to march and picket until their conditions of service and pay improved.
The violent protests, which included setting fire to a police vehicle, ended when police fired rubber bullets and threw stun grenades into the crowd of protesters. SABC reported at least 10 protesters were injured and numerous arrests were made.
A statement by Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu condemned the violence in the strongest terms. Sisulu said in the statement:
Within the Defence environment this lawlessness is a very serious breach of the nation’s trust, especially those charged with the protection of state security. The Chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has been asked to deal with this.
The minister went on to say the acts of vandalism and threats to the public by soldiers represented the “worst form of criminality in a democracy.”