Pretoria - The ousted residents of Marievale army base outside Nigel - who are now living at Happiness Valley just outside the base - was once again back in court on Tuesday - this time in an urgent bid to be provided with clean water and for the SANDF to stop threatening and harassing them.
This, while an application to hold SA National Defence Force Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and two of her officials in contempt of court for allegedly failing to comply with a court order allowing the ousted residents back on the army base, will be heard on November 19. Lawyers for Human Rights, who represented the ousted community, will next month, ask for an order to commit the minister, the Chief of the Army, Lieutenant-General Lindile Yam and Marievale base commander Colonel Mafihlwase Mkhize, to 120 days imprisonment.
LHR said they had failed to comply with a judgment handed down in May this year, in which it was found that the eviction was illegal.
The residents, who have now become a familiar face at the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, in the latest legal bid said they are being targeted Mkhize and her officials.
They claimed that despite Happiness Village was situated just outside Marievale, armed SANDF soldiers walked around the village and intimidated the people.
The last straw, they said, was when the soldiers took away the little clean drinking water they had. It is claimed that Mkhize and her officials were trying to intimidate the residents from proceeding with their ongoing battle against the SANDF to return to the base.
Following the illegal evictions carried out by the SANDF late last year in Marievale, the evicted people were left homeless. Many moved into the nearby informal settlement of Happiness Village, where they have erected shacks.
It is state land and used as an informal settlement.
But things were far from happy at this village, as the residents were being unsettled by the ever-increasing presence of armed soldiers. The residents involved in the legal battle said they were being targeted.
The soldiers patrol Happiness Village in armoured military vehicles known as “mambas” and they enter the homes of the residents, carrying rifles. It was said that tensions between the soldiers and the residents - about 60 households - escalated by the day and as a final nail in their coffin, their clean water had been taken away from them.
Resident Chris Koitsoie said previously they received clean water from taps in the yards of some of the old brick houses, which housed some of the original residents.
These residents until recently shared their taps with the Marievale shack dwellers. Koitsoie said Mkhize now promised the original residents sanitation and electricity of they “assisted her to get rid of the ongoing litigation.”
He said these bribes started in August this year and it resulted in them only having access to water from water trucks, which the military warned was only for washing purposes as it was dirty. Koitsoie said as they have no alternative but to drink this water, many of the residents have fallen ill.
Mkhize, in turn, said these allegations were misleading and an attempt to “obscure the real issues.” She stated that some of the residents damaged a water pipe as they illegally connected it to one of the brick houses. This caused hours of water leakage and an increased water bill for the military base.
She further denied that the soldiers intimidated the residents. “ I would like to emphasise the fact that all members of the SANDF have pledged to serve their country and its people….with dignity and integrity.”
While both parties pointed fingers at each other, they decided to bury the hatchet for now.
The SANDF will provide the residents with four taps of clean water and without admitting any wrongdoing, they will not intimidate the residents. The residents, without admitting wrongdoing, said they will not damage any taps or pipes.