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SAfrica to dismiss up to 2,000 soldiers

CAPE TOWN, Sep 1 – South Africa has issued around 2,000 letters of dismissal to soldiers who last week staged an illegal march and tried to storm the seat of government, the defence ministry said Tuesday.

"There are between 1,500 and 2,000 people we are looking at. We have sent out letters of dismissal and they will have ten days to come and make representations," ministry spokesman Ndivhuwo Mabaya told AFP.

The government has lashed out at the protest on August 26, when soldiers tried to scale the fence at the Union Buildings where President Jacob Zuma has his office.

Police used teargas, rubber bullets and water cannons to disperse the soldiers, who marched despite a court order barring their protest.

The soldiers were marching to demand higher wages, but the unruly protest has raised questions about the discipline of South Africa’s 62,000-strong military.

Those involved "must accept no sympathy from the state, as the law will take its course," government spokesman Themba Maseko said.

"Defying a court order … and attempting to invade the seat of government is totally unacceptable, especially from people who have the responsibility of being the true defenders of the constitution."

The protesting soldiers were in plain clothes, but Mabaya said authorities had identified soldiers to be dismissed by those who were not in barracks at the time of the protest.

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He said the offence warrants immediate dismissal.

March organisers, the South African National Defence Union (SANDU) told national news agency SAPA it was seeking an urgent interdict against the soldiers’ dismissal.

Sister military union, the South African Security Forces Union (SASFU), has thrown its weight behind SANDU and is threatening mass protest action if wage demands are not met.

"We are opposing the entire dismissal. We are calling on the minister of defence to reconsider," Boysen Lengau, SASFU general secretary told AFP.

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