News / South Africa

Ilse de Lange
2 minute read
9 May 2018
4:26 pm

Court victory for Marievale villagers against SANDF eviction

Ilse de Lange

Most of them currently live in squalor in a makeshift shanty town they cynically refer to as 'Happy Village'.

Picture: Ilse de Lange

The Defence Force has been given 30 days to allow a group of civilians to return to their homes at the Marievale military training base near Nigel or to provide them with temporary alternative housing.

Judge Norman Davis granted the order after the villagers, with the help of Lawyers for Human Rights, took the SANDF to court for violating their rights by forcefully evicting them without a court order in November last year.

Members of the SANDF were also interdicted from harassing, threatening or intimidating the villagers and were ordered not to restrict their movement to and from the military base, subject to the villagers not interfering with military activities and not compromising the security of the base.

The court order will remain in place pending the finalisation of whatever legal proceedings the SANDF may launch for the eviction of the civilians or the finalisation of an agreement.

Overjoyed villagers danced and sang outside the High Court in Pretoria, but their lawyer Jacob van Garderen warned them that this might not be their last legal battle.

The SANDF is expected to appeal against the ruling.

The village was initially occupied by military staff, but later became a haven for criminal activity such as prostitution, illegal shebeens and the possession of illegal firearms and vehicles until military police operations put an end to it in May last year.

Judge Davis said none of the villagers was currently an SANDF member, none of them was granted authority to occupy state quarters and they were clearly unlawful occupiers.

He 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.

The defence department allowed the civilian occupation due to inaction, “oversight” or simple unconcern over a period of many years and could not now, without resorting to legal process first, simply revert to defence policy to evict the villagers, he added.

Although the SANDF denied it, Judge Davis found that the SANDF had conducted a forced illegal removal of all civilian occupants under the guise of a training exercise.

He said where the houses were already occupied by military staff or had been vandalised, the SANDF would have to provide the villagers with alternative housing.