A Port Elizabeth High Court judge has ruled conduct of soldiers who apparently illegally evicted people from houses on Port Elizabeth’s Forest Hill military base amounted to “brazen contempt of the rule of law”.
“The job [of the SA National Defence Force] is to serve, protect and defend citizens of this country,” The Herald quoted Judge Judith Robertson as saying during an urgent hearing brought by Alta Smit. She along with two other families were evicted, apparently on orders given by base Officer Commanding, Colonel Veli Phakathi, last month.
The hearing stems from an urgent court interdict granted to have household goods which were dumped in front of the Port Elizabeth city hall, returned to her home.
According to the newspaper Advocate Zuko Mapomam, representing the SANDF and the Department of Public Works, conceded the eviction was illegal.
Following the eviction in the first week of November, SANDF Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga said: “About 15 soldiers were instructed to evict individuals who were identified as occupying military houses against the rules governing allocation of these” from three houses on Army Support Base Eastern Cape.
The apparent dumping of furniture and threatening of municipal officials by armed soldiers had been brought to the attention of senior authorities, he said, adding an internal investigation would run concurrently with the police investigation.
A contempt of court matter related to the eviction has been postponed to February 2. Smut’s legal team brought the contempt application after the SANDF failed to restore her houses and belongings in the manner they were before the eviction.
At the time of publication the SANDF had not responded to a request for further comment on the incident.