Marievale community members picketing out the North Gauteng High Court. PHOTO: Brenda Masilela/ANA

PRETORIA - The ousted residents of Marievale army base did not move back to renovated bungalows provided by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and opted to stay in a makeshift shanty town in Happiness Village, the High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday.

Advocate Taki Madima SC said Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and two of her officials cannot be held in contempt of court as she did comply with the court order and provided alternative accommodation for the people who were illegally removed from Marievale in Nigel.

"They didn't want to petition, it's clear they wanted five star accommodation," he said.

He argued that the SANDF renovated the bungalows spending a tune of over R 1 million to make the place inhabitable.

He conceded that the department did not meet the 30-day deadline ordered by Judge Norman Davis to have residents provided with alternative accommodation or returned to their homes.

Madima explained that this was due to budget constraints, however he said one bungalow was ready in June, a month after the order was made, but still residents refused to move in.

The court heard that 73  people and their dependants which were 355 in total, had to share two bungalows and one bungalow could take 120 people.

Madima said all people would have been accommodated because some did not want to return to Marievale.

The bungalows were to be divided in the middle, women, girls and babies occupy one side while men and boys occupy the other side.

Judge Davis argued that the department can't house family units the same way as they house soldiers.

Madima said some people were staying on those bungalows before, the problem now is that they want houses.

He said in August, residents wrote a letters and wanted to be provided with basic human facilities in Happiness Village.

"It's clear they want to stay at Happiness Valley," Madima said.

A legal representative from the Lawyers of Human Rights, advocate Marie-Anne de Vos dismissed Madima's argument and said the bungalows were inadequate.

She said the Minister had  good intentions with complying with the court order, the department would have renovated the houses and given the bungalows to the soldiers.

Davis said he will make his judgment on November 30.

African News Agency (ANA)