SANDF accused of intimidation of Marievale residents
Pretoria - Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) will approach the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, later this week following allegations that the SANDF continues to intimidate and harass residents of the Marievale army base, outside Nigel.
This will be the second time that the human rights lawyers turn to court during the Covid-19 lockdown, in a bid for the soldiers to adhere to several previous court orders, and to treat the residents with respect.
Lawyer Louise du Plessis said their clients had reported that soldiers from the SANDF Marievale military base continue to intimidate and harass them.
Some of the residents reported that, last week, soldiers from the Marievale military base fired flares, and discharged rifles and other firearms, early in the morning, around the neighbouring Happiness Village, next to the base, where several families are staying.
None of the residents were given any prior notice or warning of this.
Du Plessis said, as a result, it left the community, which includes children and elderly people, in shock. A number of shells from these projectiles and flares were later picked up by the residents.
Even though no one got injured the SANDF conduct is illegal and seriously irresponsible, as it poses a serious risk to the safety of their clients, LHR said in a letter sent to the SANDF.
They stated that, to add insult to injury, the SANDF continued its intimidation campaign when soldiers started to break down two informal homes and structures in Happiness Village.
These soldiers informed residents that they do not belong in Marievale and that they should move out.
They also stationed a number of members of the SANDF at the “gate” near the entrance of Happiness Village. This makes it impossible for members of the community to enter or leave the village.
Du Plessis said the soldiers have specifically targeted community leader Chris Koetsioe and made it impossible for him to leave his house.
Du Plessis said in the letter: “It worries us that the soldiers continue to act with impunity, especially when they tell community members that they will do whatever they want and that they do not care about court orders.”
It is alleged that some soldiers have stationed themselves outside the house of Koetsioe, in an attempt to provoke and intimidate him.
Du Plessis and her team visited the camp this weekend, where they were at first refused entrance to see their clients.
She said she tried to resolve the matter with the SANDF, but their position was that they had the right to conduct military exercises at Happiness Village.
In the letter to the department, Du Plessis said: “We cannot emphasise enough that these actions are in flagrant contempt of the various court orders. Besides that, conducting such reckless and dangerous military exercises, so close to civilians, is unlawful and criminal.”
She said it was apparent from the facts that the real motivation behind the SANDF’s “military exercise” was to make life for their clients unbearable and force them to leave Happiness Village.
“It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the reason for both the unlawful eviction from Marievale and also now from Happiness Village, is to get rid of the community to make way for the planned mining operations,” she said.
The Marievale saga between the civilians - some who have stayed on the base for a very long time - has been dragging on in court since 2017.
This was the first time the SANDF forcefully evicted the residents, which included women and children.
The residents, with the assistance of Lawyers for Human Rights, have on numerous occasions had various orders and contempt of court orders issued against the defence force.
The SANDF has not yet filed their response to the latest allegations.