The Marievale civilian community’s application to have the defence minister, the chief of the army and the commander of the base jailed for contempt of court has been struck off the urgent court roll.
The community lodged an application to send Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, army chief Lieutenant-General Lindile Yam and Colonel Mafihlwase Mkhize, commanding officer of Army Support Base at Marievale training base near Nigel, to prison for 120 days unless the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) complied with a court order in their favour.
Judge Nomsa Khumalo ruled it was not urgent.
In May the civilians obtained an urgent court order forcing SANDF to allow them to return to their homes or to provide them with proper alternative housing, and interdicting staff from harassing or intimidating them. This was after the community of about 600 people were forcefully removed from their homes without a court order in December last year.
The civilians had moved into the houses years ago when the base was virtually abandoned, but they were violently thrown out after SANDF decided to start using the base again.
The group’s lawyer Louise du Plessis from Lawyers for Human Rights said they were considering either to approach the Constitutional Court or to apply for a preferential date in the high court.
The minister insisted in court papers that she had given the chief of the SANDF and Military Command instructions to comply with the court order and could not be personally held liable for any contempt.
The villagers, however, accused her of not appreciating her responsibilities as a minister and of gross dereliction of her duties.
Most of them presently live in a makeshift shantytown they cynically refer to as “Happiness Village”, without sanitation, electricity or running water, and some complained of being harassed and intimidated by military staff.
All homes were apparently allocated to members of the SANDF shortly after the judgment and the SANDF offered alternative accommodation to the community in the form of two open bungalows with no privacy or cooking facilities and limited ablution facilities.