The soldiers' union insisted they had the right to protest
South Africa's defence minister could dismiss more than 1,000 soldiers who went on the rampage in the capital Pretoria on Wednesday, officials say.
The troops left their barracks and marched to the Union Buildings, insisting on seeing President Jacob Zuma to seek a 30% pay rise.
Police used rubber bullets and teargas to disperse the marchers who reportedly became unruly and trashed police cars.
Mr Zuma condemned the violent protest as "unacceptable".
The Department of Defence and Military Veterans told the BBC that Minister Lindiwe Sisulu's office is currently following legal processes to dismiss between 1,500 and 2,000 soldiers.
"We want them to face the highest penalty which is dismissal," said department spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya.
"There is a legal process that has to be followed but we have indicated that the matter needs to be dealt with urgently."
Ms Sisulu had earlier condemned the strike, saying it had put the country's national security at risk.
"The minister has indicated that the the behaviour exhibited by those soldiers will not be tolerated in the defence force," Mr Mabaya told the BBC.
He said up to 2,000 troops were not in their barracks in Pretoria on Wednesday but said his department would need to "verify which of those did not take part in illegal strike".
"They will have to have valid reasons for not being in their barracks that day," he said.
He added that it would not be difficult to replace those dismissed.
'No thuggish behaviour'
"The bases from which these soldiers are being mobilised would be without adequate protection, thus exposing them to potential raids by criminals," said Ms Sisulu earlier.
She said all of the soldiers involved would be suspended without pay, and warned that she would not tolerate "thuggish behaviour by our armed forces".
The soldiers' protest is the latest in a series of rallies, strikes and disputes over pay and services over the past few months.
Several unions have led walkouts, demanding inflation-busting wage rises - and have largely had their demands met.
But the government said the military was subject to different rules to the rest of society.
A high court ruling had declared the protest illegal, and officials warned of "drastic" measures against any soldier found to have damaged property or carried out vandalism.
South African National Defence Union (Sandu) spokesperson Pikkie Greeff said soldiers had the right to protest because they were South Africa's worst paid civil servants.