A file picture of Marievale community members picketing outside court. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)
A file picture of Marievale community members picketing outside court. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Residents, Marievale Military Base clash again

By Zelda Venter Time of article published Apr 20, 2021

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Pretoria - The protracted dispute between residents and the Marievale Military Base is again the subject of an urgent application in the North Gauteng High Court, Pretoria.

The residents are again complaining that military personnel are making life difficult for them. The events that prompted this latest application occurred last month.

The residents claim about 100 soldiers armed with R4 assault rifles and pangas approached Happiness Village next to the base. They said the soldiers started assaulting residents and demolished their shacks. Before this alleged incident, four soldiers had apparently entered the village to investigate the construction of new houses.

They said early the next morning two officers and about 30 soldiers entered the village and made threatening comments towards some of the residents before they demolished the houses.

The soldiers allegedly fired shots, but no one was injured. The residents told the court they were beaten by the soldiers, butted with rifles, and forced to roll in the mud and wash in the river.

The residents said they were asked why they did not want to move. According to them, their ordeal went on for hours.

The residents turned to the court, again with the help of Lawyers for Human Rights, to once again interdict the SANDF from intimidating and trying to unlawfully evict them.

The handful of residents who remain in Happiness Village said they were terrified of the soldiers.

The parties have been in court for several years, after the SANDF first tried to evict them from the army base. Numerous court orders have been issued over time. One of them barred the military from evicting the residents without a proper application and court order.

The SANDF was also ordered not to intimidate or assault the residents.

Many of the residents have been moved to alternative land in Ekurhuleni and others moved to Happiness Village, next to the base.

Marievale Military Base is a designated military training institution. It is used for, among other things, the training of newly appointed members of the Military Police for crime prevention and for training by the army support base in the Gauteng South region for facilities control and maintenance.

Until a few years ago, the base was not used for military purposes and many civilians and former soldiers made it their home.

The problems, however, started when the military decided to again use the base for its operations.

Pursuant to an inability to resolve the issues of occupation of the base and the acquisition of alternate accommodation by the civilians, accusations of contempt of court and counter-accusations of unlawful conduct led to the numerous court orders.

The military has denied the residents’ latest claims they were attacked. They conceded that three houses were demolished, but said they were newly erected structures in breach of the villagers’ agreement that they would not erect new structures.

The SANDF also accused the residents of throwing stones at some housing units that form part of the Military Base.

The military also allege they had reacted to a “tip-off” from inside the village that there were illegal miners who have sunk unsafe shafts there.

Judge Norman Davis said he understood the military did not wish to “run to court” every time, but the soldiers were not allowed to “take the law into their own hands”. He ordered the soldiers toe the line and adhere to the previous court orders.

Pretoria News

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