Stop intimidating Marievale army base residents, judge orders
Pretoria - The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, has ordered the SANDF to leave residents of Happiness Village in the Marievale army base outside Nigel alone.
The court was so displeased with the conduct of the SANDF harassing and intimidating these residents, that it also issued a special costs order against the defence force.
The continued intimidation and harassment of these residents have been the topic of several court orders since the legal wrangle started in 2017.
Judge Brenda Neukircher ordered an immediate stop to the intimidation and harassment and declared the restrictions placed on the movement of these residents unlawful. She also ordered that a gate which kept these residents isolated be dismantled. In terms of the order, the SANDF must stay out of Happiness Village.
The residents have been at the receiving end of the SANDF conduct for years, as the soldiers are trying to remove them from the base. The SANDF is of the opinion that Marievale is exclusively an army base, despite earlier orders that they may not simply evict these residents - most of whom have stayed there for years.
This is the second time during the Covid-19 lockdown that Lawyers for Human Rights, who is assisting the residents, had to turn to court.
The residents said that despite the pandemic the evictions and harassment continued. It became so bad, they said, that they were virtually prevented from leaving their homes.
Even Lawyers for Human Rights tried to consult with the residents, but battled to obtain permission to enter the village. Paul Verryn, former bishop of the Central Methodist Church in Joburg and the community’s spiritual adviser, told the court in an affidavit that these people were severely traumatised by the conduct of the SANDF. “They are deeply anxious and most of them speak of depression and a loss of the will to live.”
He said they felt they were being bullied and had no idea what they had done to deserve this disrespect.
Verryn said he was shocked by the aggressiveness he and the lawyers were met with by an SANDF major when they arrived at the base to speak to the residents.
The residents recently reported that from early in the morning soldiers fired flares and discharged rifles and other firearms around Happiness Village. None of the residents were given any prior notice or warning and it left the community, which included children and elderly people, in shock. Several shells from these projectiles and flares were picked up by residents.
The SANDF insisted that it was a military base and that they were allowed to conduct military exercises. Also, due to the Covid-19 restrictions, they were allowed to ensure the residents did not move around.
The SA Human Rights Defenders Network and the International Court of Justice have meanwhile written to the UN Special Rapporteur and the chairperson of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights alerting them of the treatment by the SANDF of these residents. The letter said it seemed as if the soldiers' conduct was aimed at making the residents’ lives intolerable so as to secure their evictions “through the back door”.