Contempt of court application brought against SANDF

Marievale residents say order to provide them with accommodation has been ignored

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Photo of Marievale
People living on state land in Marievale were evicted in November 2017. They have set up an informal settlement nearby. Photo: Kimberley Mutandiro

Residents of an informal settlement in Marievale, Gauteng, took the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to the Pretoria High Court on Wednesday. They are asking Judge Norman Davis to find the SANDF in contempt of court.

Marievale, which is on state land, used to be an old mining village. In November 2017, the SANDF evicted about 400 people living there. The residents sought help from Lawyers for Human Rights.

The Pretoria High Court ruled on 9 May that the families should be returned to their houses within 30 days or be provided with alternative accommodation if their old houses were not fit for habitation or had been occupied by members of the SANDF. This didn’t happen.

The SANDF did offer the residents two bungalows (old army barracks) containing about 120 beds each, closely packed together. But this is far short of the community’s needs. There is no place for their belongings and no privacy. The SANDF offered to subdivide the bungalows to allow privacy, but this would reduce the space available even further.

In the meanwhile the evicted residents have created an informal settlement about 400 metres from their old homes. But the residents allege that the SANDF has cut the water pipes serving this area.

They have gone to court to ask Judge Davis to find that the Minister of Defence and various army personnel are in contempt of the May judgment. If successful, the state respondents could be imprisoned.

The SANDF “had not provided adequate alternative accommodation after indicating that the Marievale houses had been occupied by military personnel,” Marie-Anne de Vos argued on behalf of the Marievale families. De Vos told the court that the bungalows provided by the SANDF were unfit for families to live in. The bungalows had to be partitioned with men living on one side and women and children on the other, which was inadequate, she said.

Advocate Taki Madima, representing the SANDF, argued that the court order was not violated. Since it had provided the bungalows as alternative accommodation within the 30 day deadline, the SANDF was not in contempt of court. He said the SANDF had spent R1 million on the bungalows and that it had budget constraints. He accused the residents of looking for five-star accommodation.

Marievale families sang in protest outside the court. “SANDF you are going down, ” they sang.

Nonhlanhla Matju, one of the displaced residents, said she and her two children had to live with her mother after the eviction. “We never imagined that the day would come when the army came to our homes and forced us out. We were comfortable where we lived for years.”

Thumi Weyi said, “Our shack was destroyed by the SANDF in November. Now we are renting a place in Duduza for R1,800 per month. It is too much money. We are hoping that this time around the SANDF will comply [with the court order] and provide us with houses.”

He says he and his family were left with no choice but to leave the base, but he has not lost hope.

Judgment is expected on 30 November.

TOPICS:  Housing

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