News / South Africa

Ilse de Lange
2 minute read
10 Sep 2018
6:30 am

Army top brass face contempt of court over military base evictions

Ilse de Lange

Military has not complied with court order and allowed them to return to homes.

SANDF file photo.

A group of civilians who were forcefully evicted from their homes at the Marievale military training base near Nigel last year want Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, the chief of the army, Lindile Yam, and the commander of the base jailed for contempt of court.

Tomorrow the group will ask the high court in Pretoria to sentence Mapisa-Nqakula, Yam and the commanding officer of Army Support Base at Marievale, Colonel Mafihlwase Mkhize, to be jailed for 120 days unless the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) complies with a court order allowing them to return to their homes or to provide them with proper alternative housing, and to interdict military staff from harassing or intimidating them.

They will also ask the court to issue warrants for the arrest of the top brass, suspended for a year on condition they complied with the court order.

Mapisa-Nqakula insisted in court papers she had given the chief of the SANDF and Military Command instructions to comply with the court order, which she expected to be implemented, and could not be personally held liable for any contempt.

However, the villagers accused her of not appreciating her responsibilities as a minister and of gross dereliction of her duties.

Judge Norman Davis granted the order in May after the villagers, with the help of Lawyers for Human Rights, took the SANDF to court for forcefully evicting them without a court order.

Most presently live in squalor in a makeshift shanty town they cynically refer to as “Happiness Village”, which is without sanitation, electricity or running water.

The judge said at the time it was astounding how the SANDF, running a military base which constituted critical military infrastructure with a secure perimeter and controlled access, could have allowed it to become a civilian village.

One of the former Marievale residents, Wilhelmina Rex, alleged in court papers the SANDF had deliberately thwarted the court order by allocating the houses to military staff and then belatedly offered to house only a small number of them in two inadequate open bungalows with no cooking facilities and with the women, babies and girls on one side and the men and boys on the other.

She said, despite the court order in their favour, they were not allowed back into their houses and were still traumatised by the violent and undignified manner in which they were evicted.

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