South African Soldiers Turn to Unions to Ease Process of Integration
Aired February 27, 2000 - 2:17 p.m. ET
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ASIEH NAMDAR, CNN ANCHOR: The task of integrating blacks and whites in South Africa after apartheid has been difficult. One of the most sensitive institutions has been the military, where black freedom fighters now serve alongside the white soldiers they once fought. Some soldiers are turning to unions to help work out their grievances.
South Africa's SABC reports from Pretoria.
ROBYN CURNOW, SABC: South Africa's soldiers have always marched alone, without the backing of union representation. Now they have a choice of four unions. the new Armed Forces Union of South Africa, or AFUSA, is the latest to start recruiting. Major Nare Makgakga says they'll organize around issues of affirmative and representivity.
MAJOR NARE MAKGAKGA, UNION LEADER: Since the election in 1994, there have been (UNINTELLIGIBLE) incidents being reported to the SANDF and nothing has been done about that. So because of now with the union, I think the union is going to do this kind of issues.
CURNOW: The AFUSA executive says the SANDF is still divided between a black army and a white army. Some military analysts fear that growth of union activity could further divide the newly integrated SANDF. But military command doesn't agree. This is because the military labor environment is uniquely structured.
Brigadier General Robin Herd explains that a military a union has to have 15,000 members before it has power within a military bargaining council. He says the bigger the membership the greater the focus will be on collective bargaining rather than individual grievances.
BRIG. GEN. ROBIN HERD, ARMY SPOKESMAN: The mutual interests we have defined as those areas of renumeration, employee benefits, occupational health and safety, the working environment, but specifically excluded from collective bargaining are military operations, military exercises and military training, which prepares the defense force.
CURNOW: Defense force unions are gearing up to play an increasingly prominent role in military life, especially with the prospect of demobilization or redeployment of about 15,000 military staff in the near future.
(on camera): South African soldiers aren't protected under the Labor Relations Act, thus leaving them in a vacuum. But the beginnings of a trade union movement give them a voice. It also them an avenue to health and safety management air their grievances without having to resort to, say, mutinies, or even a repeat of the Tempe shooting, when a soldier shot dead seven of his colleagues.
Robyn Curnow, SABC Pretoria for CNN WORLD REPORT.
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