Military bases were placed on high alert last night.
The status - the first of its kind since the advent of democracy - comes as axed ANC Youth League president Julius Malema is expected to meet soldiers near a military base in Lenasia, south of Johannesburg, today.
At the same time, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula issued a strongly worded statement which said, in part, that ill-discipline in the military was a direct threat to the country's security.
Today's meeting comes after sources told The Times that top security intelligence briefings, involving several government ministers, were held last night.
In a statement issued late yesterday by Friends of the ANC Youth League, Malema said he would address soldiers after listening to their "cries and demands".
The meeting comes after Malema met disgruntled mineworkers from various companies around Gauteng over the past two weeks.
Malema's planned address has been slammed by the Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans slammed as incitement. He yesterday called for mineworkers to go on a five-day nationwide strike every month until mine bosses had listened to their demand for better wages and for National Union of Mineworkers leaders to step down.
Malema has called on the miners not to give up on their struggle for a R12500 a month salary.
It is a move economists say will shut down mines and affect pension savings.
Malema's spokesman, Floyd Shivambu, said: "The meeting is as a result of the pleas and requests the armed forces - soldiers of the SANDF - sent to Malema to come listen to and voice the military and soldiers' cries and demands.
"For a considerable amount of time now, South Africa's important component of its defence force has been marginalised and threatened with dismissal whenever they raised concerns about conditions of work."
Defence Ministry spokesman Siphiwe Dlamini said all bases had been placed on "high alert".
"The situation is being monitored. We cannot elaborate. Directives have been issued to base commanders and certain steps are being taken," he said.
Dlamini said it was the first time that something like this had happened in the military.
"The military is a non-partisan organisation ... this is being viewed as incitement ... which is a criminal offence ... it will be treated as such," Dlamini said.
Mapisa-Nqakula said Malema's intentions had been noted.
"It has been the expressed intention of Malema that his activities in the mining sector are aimed at rendering the sector 'ungovernable', thereby undermining the economy. The country cannot afford for similar instability in the military. The SANDF is the last line of defence of the sovereignty of the country. We cannot allow anyone to play political football with this institution," she said.
Mapisa-Nqakula said any attempt to destabilise the military would be regarded as anti-South African and counter-revolutionary at the highest level.
"It is not going to be tolerated. It must be stated in no unclear terms that the military operates within an environment of command and control wherein discipline forms an integral part.
"Any actions outside this realm will be dealt with decisively by the chief of the SANDF.
"The minister calls on all members of the SANDF and the public to distance themselves from these actions of Malema.
"No permission has been granted by the SANDF's command structures for any soldiers to participate in the proposed gathering.
"Any member who does without proper permission will be subjected to the disciplinary code of the SANDF. The compromise of discipline within the SANDF is a threat to the security of our country and all our people."
Military analyst Helmoed Heitman said it was clear the military was the next target.
"Malema turned his sights on the mines and unions, but did not succeed. Now he is targeting the military in an attempt to continue with his campaign.
"If you are intending to plot sedition, the military is a good place to start. If you want to destabilise the state you demoralise the military."
Heitman said a dim view should be taken of pseudo-politicians who addressing the military, which is meant to be "apolitical".
"It is definitely something to keep an eye on. Despite there being numerous systems such as the military ombudsman, the Defence Review Commission and service commission being in place to address soldiers' concerns, some troops will fall for Malema's rhetoric," he said.
SA National Defence Union spokesman Pikkie Greeff said the meeting was not union-driven.
"We have nothing to do with this. The information we have is that among the matters to be discussed are concerns over the deployment of ANC cadres to the top structures of the defence force, poor salaries and grievances around dismissals and disciplinary matters."
NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said heeding the firebrand's calls would lead to massive job losses.
"To call on workers to embark on illegal strikes is totally irresponsible and childish.
"NUM condemns his attack on its leadership and the desperate behaviour of taking advantage of vulnerable people and trampling on rights of families of the deceased in Marikana in an attempt to score cheap political points.
"The National Union of Mineworkers appeals to all its loyal members to reject Malema's hogwash and to return to work.
"Cosatu called on mineworkers not to allow themselves to be used as a "political football".
"[Malema] is playing a dangerous game, exploiting the emotions of angry workers. This can only inflame tensions within the mining industry, flames which he is quite incapable of quenching.
"It is revealing that his main target is not the capitalist employers, who are responsible for the mineworkers' low wages and terrible conditions, but their union, the National Union of Mineworkers."
Peter Major, a mining consultant at Cadiz Corporate Solutions, said companies would lose $192-million a day should the national strike take place, a move that would lead to massive retrenchments.
"Eventually everyone would sell their shares. They would rather put their money in the banks, property and bonds.
"All these pension funds - the government pension funds, the mineworkers' pension funds and foreign pension funds - they will obviously sell all their South African mining shares," he said.