A decision handed down this week by a North Gauteng High Court judge shows the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) acted illegally when it evicted civilians from a base at Marievale on the Gauteng East Rand last year.
About 150 families who previously lived on the apparently disused base took the SANDF to court where they were represented by Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR). Judge Norman Davis ruled they were unlawfully evicted and gave the SANDF 30 days to allow the civilians to return to the houses they occupied at Marievale. He also, according to media reports, instructed the SANDF to “desist from harassing, intimidating, threatening and restricting the movement of the community”.
In its submissions to the Pretoria court, the SANDF maintained the people were not evicted but that a “training operation” was carried out. This was rejected by the court.
Davis said residents could return to the Marievale houses if they are fit for human habitation because the SANDF alleges many have been vandalised to the point where occupation of dangerous and they are not currently occupied by SANDF members.
Department of Defence head of communications, Siphiwe Dlamini, issued a two sentence statement in response to the High Court ruling.
“The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Ms N.N. Mapisa-Nqakula takes note of the judgement handed down on Wednesday 9 May 2018 by the Pretoria High Court with regard to the Marievale matter and respects the decision of the court. To this extent, the department will abide by the ruling of the court.”
According to The Citizen, Judge Davis said it was “astounding how the SANDF, running a military base it said constituted critical military infrastructure with a secure perimeter and controlled access, could have allowed the base to become a civilian village.”.
Either the SANDF or the Department of Defence apparently allowed civilian occupation of Marievale due to inaction, oversight or simply lack of concern over a period of years and could not now, without resorting to legal process, revert to defence policy to evict those living at Marievale.
The judge said where Marievale houses were occupied by military personnel or vandalised to the extent they could not be lived in, the defence force would have to provide alternative housing for people evicted.