Military bases were placed on high alert last night.
The status was imposed - for the first time since the advent of South African democracy - as axed ANC Youth League president Julius Malema prepares to speak to soldiers near a military base in Lenasia, south of Johannesburg, today.
Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has issued a strongly worded statement in which she said, in part, that ill-discipline in the military was a direct threat to this country's security.
The Times has been told that 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 speak to soldiers after listening to their "cries and demands".
Malema has met disgruntled mineworkers throughout Gauteng in the past two weeks.
His planned meeting with the soldiers has been slammed by the Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans as "incitement".
He yesterday called for mineworkers to strike nationwide for five days every month until their employers acceded to their demands for higher wages and for National Union of Mineworkers leaders to step down.
Malema has called on the miners not to give up their struggle for R12500 a month.
Economists say that such a pay increase would shut down mines and affect pension fund savings.
Malema's spokesman, Floyd Shivambu, said: "The meeting is as a result of the pleas and requests of the armed forces - soldiers of the SANDF - sent to Malema to come and 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 military bases had been put 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 measures such as this had been necessary 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 this country. We cannot allow anyone to play political football with this institution," she said.
Mapisa-Nqakula said an 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.
Mapisa-Nqakula called on all members of the SANDF and the public to distance themselves from Malema's action.
She said 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 compromis[ing] of discipline within the SANDF is a threat to the security of our country and all our people," she said.
Last night, Malema told CNN's Christiane Amanpour during an interview that they have taken over the leadership of the struggle to ensure that the mineral resources of the country benefit all South Africans, especially those who work in risky conditions underground.
He said economic freedom fighters wanted to consolidate all the workers in the country and the unemployed.
"Enough is enough. We need to share in the country's wealth," Malema told CNN.
Military analyst Helmoed Heitman said: "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 making speeches to the military, which is expected to be apolitical.
SA National Defence Union spokesman Pikkie Greeff said the meeting was not union endorsed.
"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."
Meanwhile, NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said heeding Malema's strike calls would lead to massive job losses.
"To call on workers to embark on illegal strikes is totally irresponsible and childish."
He said the attack on the NUM's leadership was a desperate behaviour by Malema, whom he accused of trampling on the rights of families of the deceased in Marikana to score cheap political points.
He urged all NUM members to reject Malema's "hogwash" and return to work.
"[Malema] is playing a dangerous game, exploiting the emotions of angry workers. This can only inflame tensions in the mining industry, flames which he is 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 NUM," Seshoka said.
Cosatu called on mineworkers not to allow themselves to be used as a 'political football'.
Peter Major, a mining consultant at Cadiz Corporate Solutions, said companies would lose R1.5-billion a day if there were a national strike.
"Eventually everyone would sell their [mining] shares. They would rather put their money in the banks, property and bonds.
"All the pension funds will sell all their South African mining shares," he said.