Wanda Koekemoer, mother of the late Willie Koekemoer, who was the champion for the fight of the residents of Marievale. Zelda Venter
MINISTER of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has to convince the court tomorrow not to imprison her for 120 days for contempt of court.

Lawyers for Human Rights said she had failed to comply with a judgment handed down in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, in May in favour of residents of Marievale, an army base near Springs.

Judge Norman Davis ordered that the evicted families be restored to their homes within 30 days. If the homes were no longer available, the SANDF had to provide alternative accommodation, he ruled.

Military staff from Marievale were also interdicted from harassing and threatening the residents.

This followed the forceful eviction of the families in December 2017 by SANDF members. On the same day as Judge Davis’s judgment, the minister issued a statement saying she respected the order and would abide by it.

Lawyers for Human Rights said more than three months on and nearly a year after the evictions, the Marievale residents remained displaced, living in precarious conditions.

Many of them moved into Happiness Village, an informal settlement near the base, living in shacks. The trauma of losing their homes haunted them and some still complained of being harassed and intimidated by military staff from the base.

It appeared that shortly after the judgment the homes formerly occupied by the evicted residents were allocated to SANDF members. Alternative accommodation was offered to the residents - two open space bungalows. There was no privacy or cooking facilities and it had limited ablution facilities.

Lawyers for Human Rights said the bungalows did not meet the standard of adequate alternative accommodation and were totally unsuited to the families, which include women, children and the elderly.

This led to Lawyers for Human Rights launching an urgent application for contempt of court against the minister and the officer commanding Marievale Base. It will ask the court to issue warrants for their arrest and apply that these be suspended for a year on condition the minister and her department complied with the previous court order within 10 days.

“The Marievale Community has been resilient and patient in their pursuit for justice. They suffered trauma and lost a key member of their community, Willie Koekemoer. But they remain intent to undo the injustice done to them and bring finality to the matter. The wheels of justice will eventually turn,” said Lawyers for Human Rights’s Thandeka Chauke.

Koekemoer, who championed the residents’ rights, apparently committed suicide in July. He’d been living on the base since the late 1970s and was among the group forcefully evicted.

His wife Ann Koekemoer and mother Wanda Koekemoer were at court yesterday, where the case was postponed to tomorrow. They wore T-shirts and badges with Willem’s smiling face on it, stating “never give up”.

Mapisa-Nqakula opposed the contempt application and said it was not her fault that the order was allegedly not adhered to. She said during a military command meeting she instructed officials to implement the court order.

She expected and believed this would be done.

“I only discovered through these (court) papers that the order was allegedly not implemented. I challenge the applicants to prove when I, personally or as the minister, refused to allow them occupation on the premises,” the minister stated.

But Lawyers for Human Rights said the minister failed in her duties as she was obliged to ensure that the order was obeyed and she should not have relied on others in this regard.