South Africa. The SA National Defence Force Union (Sandu) has threatened to lay a criminal charge against Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota for contravening the South African Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The union also wants the Labour department to take action against the SANDF for non-compliance with Occupational Health and Safety legislation.
This follows an incident at Lohatla military training ground on October 12, in which nine artillery soldiers were killed by a malfunctioning gun.
In a memorandum to the Labour department on Wednesday, Sandu acting national secretary Johan Greeff said the incident was clearly one that occurred in the workplace during working hours relating to employees of the SANDF.
‘The department of defence simply disregards OHS legislation’
The Defence department, as an employer, was also subject to the Act. Despite this, the department failed to report the incident to the Labour department as required by law in terms of the Act.
“In fact it is now a matter of public record that the department of Labour had to force the SANDF to accept the fact that the former had the legislated right to access and investigate the entire incident and the scene thereof,” Greeff said.
“This obstructiveness of the department of Defence is merely indicative of the concerning trend within the department of defence to flaunt Occupational Health and Safety legislation requirements.”
Another example of its non-compliance was that even though the legislation required one Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) representative for every 50 employees in the workplace, the department did not have that amount of safety representatives, nor did it have the required ratio during the incident at Lohatla.
“In fact, no OHS safety representative was even present at the incident itself,” he said. The SANDF did not provide for any OHS compliment to be part of deployment or training exercises.
This despite soldiers, as workers, being expected to function in an environment “rife with extremely dangerous equipment and situations”.
“It is clear that the department of defence simply disregards OHS legislation with impunity and only complies in so far as it suits them and when it suits them. This situation could not be allowed to continue.
“Sandu presents this memorandum to the department of labour to call on you to deal with our concerns in this regard in a swift manner and to the fullest extent of the law.
“You are also informed that Sandu will open a criminal charge against the Minister of Defence for failing to report the Lohatla incident,” Greeff said.
Northern Cape police declined to comment on whether a charge against Lekota had been laid by Sandu.