It’s been just over a year since a North Gauteng High Court judge ordered the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to find suitable alternative accommodation or allow about 150 families back onto Marievale military base.
Indications are the matter will come to a heads on Friday during yet another appearance in the Pretoria Court.
Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), who took up cudgels on behalf of the evicted families, issued a statement marking the anniversary of the initial court judgement.
It said, in part, about 150 families were “violently and unlawfully evicted from old houses of a defunct military base known as Marievale village by armed soldiers in the lead-up to the festive season”.
In May, Judge Norman Davis granted an order declaring the evictions illegal and ordered the evicted families be restored to their homes within 30 days. The order further stated where restoration was not possible the SANDF was obliged to make provision for adequate alternative accommodation. A Department of Defence (DoD) statement indicated the Minister “respected” the court decision.
“To date the evicted families remain displaced and continue to live in precarious conditions. Many were forced to move into ‘Happiness Village’, an informal settlement near Marievale village where they erected shacks. They endured the harsh winter cold and heavy rain in those shacks and do not have access to essential services including electricity and water.
“After the 30 days set for compliance lapsed, the SANDF remained unforthcoming about implementation of the court order but soon alleged all houses formerly occupied by the evicted families could not be restored because they were allocated to military personnel. The SANDF then offered alternative accommodation in the form of two open space bungalows with no privacy or cooking facilities and with limited ablution facilities. The SANDF indicated the bungalows would be partitioned and women, girls and babies would occupy one side while men and boys would occupy the other side. The bungalows do not meet the constitutional standards of adequate alternative accommodation and are grossly unsuitable to accommodate families including disabled persons, elderly persons and minor children, LHR said.
“As it became apparent the SANDF failed to abide by the court order, LHR launched a contempt application against the Minister of Defence, Lieutenant-General Lindile Yam (Chief of the SA Army) and a Colonel Mkhize (Officer Commanding Marievale base).
“Another salient term of the May 2018 court order was that soldiers stationed at Marievale village were interdicted from harassing, threatening or intimidating the families. Those living in Happiness Village reported ongoing harassment by and confrontations with armed soldiers who constantly patrol Happiness Village with rifles and heavy armoured military vehicles (“Mambas”).
“In October tensions in Happiness Village escalated to the point LHR brought another urgent application to address harassment as well as unlawful disconnection by soldiers of a water pipe supplying Happiness Village residents with potable water. Persistent interference by soldiers in the daily lives of civilian families is raised in the contempt application as a breach of the interdict against harassment.
“This is one of several illegal eviction cases LHR has dealt with but the unique and disturbing aspect of this case is it concerns illegal evictions against civilian families perpetrated by armed soldiers.
“The disobedience of a court order by an institution such as the military is intolerable and a serious threat to the principle of the rule of law. The Marievale Community has endured a lot of suffering since losing their homes but remain determined to see justice done,” said Thandeka Chauke of LHR’s land and housing programme.