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Court throws out case against air force cadets with traces of cannabis in their bodies

11 May 2022 - 08:00
The high court in Pretoria refused to entertain an application by four applicants whose enrolment as cadets in an SA Air Force programme was terminated after they were found to have traces of cannabis in their bodies. File photo.
The high court in Pretoria refused to entertain an application by four applicants whose enrolment as cadets in an SA Air Force programme was terminated after they were found to have traces of cannabis in their bodies. File photo.
Image: 123RF/LUKAS GOJDA/ File photo

The high court in Pretoria has struck off the roll an application by four people who were removed from the 2022 intake in the army’s military skill development system (MSDS) programme.

The four sought an order declaring the department of defence’s decision to terminate their service with the SA Air Force unlawful.

The four, who were asked to report to the Swartkop Air Force base for duty in March, were removed from the programme after traces of cannabis were found in their systems after testing.

The four argued they were entitled to use cannabis for medicinal or recreational purposes in the privacy of their own homes.

They also contended the cannabis detected in their urine and blood samples was present in their systems because they ingested the drug at their respective homes before reporting to Swartkop.

The four had applied in June 2021 to the military to enlist as cadets for the 2022 intake in the MSDS programme. 

The four underwent psychometric evaluation tests and medical fitness tests in their respective provinces.

As stated on the application form, they were informed if they had not been contacted by December 31 2021, they should consider their applications unsuccessful.

The candidates did not receive feedback by that date and regarded their applications to be unsuccessful.

However, the four were then unexpectedly contacted by the department of defence to report for duty at Swartkop where, after testing, traces of cannabis were found.

The department said when they were invited to attend the programme, the applicants received a letter of invitation clearly stating no liquor or drugs are allowed at camp and, if found, this may lead to a dismissal. 

After being informed they were medically unfit for employment, the four read and signed a notice to withdraw from the MSDS programme due to medical reasons.

Three of the four applicants lodged complaints with the military ombud on March 31. On April 5, testing revealed there was no trace of cannabis in their systems.

The next day,  the three applicants lodged an appeal with the office of the chief of the SA Air Force.  Their attorney advised them to also approach the high court on an urgent basis for reinstatement.

The high court refused to deal with the application by the four. 

“They are aware they may apply to the high court for a review against the military ombud’s decision,” Judge Elmarie van der Schyff said.

She said the three applicants placed the proverbial cart before the horse by lodging the urgent application.

“The dispute is being dealt with in another forum,” Van der Schyff said.

She also refused to entertain the application of the fourth applicant because the military ombud was the more appropriate forum to approach.

“In light of the doctrine of separation of powers, a court should tread lightly when there is the possibility of intruding into another functionary’s domain.”

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