Ex-Marievale residents’ shacks demolished while trying to build them

The Marievale community have been terrorised by SANDF soldiers since they were evicted from their homes in November last year. Now they are being prevented from building shacks and some have been broken down by the SANDF.

They were barred from entering their homes in November on the disused military base when soldiers entered their homes and forced them out. The community took them to court where an urgent interdict was granted preventing the evictions yet the soilder’s still have their member’s at entrances preventing people from returning to their homes.

The little community was located on the border of a coal mine and is not guarded by the military who have dug a trench around the border lines of the base. Marievale is located five kilometers outside Nigel in south-west Gauteng. A derelict military base in the area was home to around 600 people till 29 November 2017, when army personnel began evicting people without an eviction order. Since then some families have erected informal settlements a few kilometers away called Happiness Village.

But the distance has not stopped the SANDF from threatening families. Some residents interviewed by The Daily Vox said that the soldiers went to the settlement on Friday, broke down structures, threatened families and said they would be back.

When The Daily Vox visited this week, some of the structure had not yet been rebuilt, with the owners fearing that the soldiers would return.

Chris Koitsioe, one of the community leaders said that the soldiers came in armoured vehicles and kicked down structures.

“All the shacks that were not completely built were broken down. People were instructed by the soldiers not to rebuild and told they would be back,” he said.

Koitsioe said the soldiers came to his house and he was told him to stop making trouble or they would arrest him. He had been living in Marievale since 2004 – he had joined the-then South African Defense Force in 1988, and resigned in 2007, but had remained in his home.

In November when he was evicted, his stock was stolen from his tuckshop by soldiers, and never returned to him despite being told it would. Koitsioe was arrested when he tried to prevent the soldiers from stealing his stock. He has since built a shack and sent his two children to live with his mother in Vereeniging. “They will return when this war is over,” he said.

The Marievale community had made a village for themselves inside the compound where Koitsioe had delivered fresh bread and milk to residents daily. He said they had even organised a voting station inside their village but political parties were not bothered about their plight. “They only want votes from us but have made empty promises to us,” he said.

A woman who was evicted four days after giving birth also called Happiness Village home. Her situation is anything but happy. She was living under a shelter and was picked up with her husband and baby by Koitsioe when he saw them a three days later at night. “I thought my baby was going to die when the soldiers came,” 18-year-old Rosa Sithole from Mozambique told The Daily Vox.

She said moved to Marievale with her husband two years ago and now lives alone with her baby as her husband works in Welkom.

Fikiswa Gumede lives with her husband, 8-month-old twins and three children in her shack which fits a bed, a gas stove and a couch. “It rained a lot last night so all our belongings were wet and my children when to school wet today,” she said.

She had been living at the Marievale base for the past three years and said her clothes were thrown out her house and she was told to leave. “I have to stay here (in Happiness Village) because I have nowhere else to go,” she said.

Happiness village has not running water or sanitation and people are forced to walk far very far to the closest tap.

Ward councillor, Wollaston Labuschagne said apparently the land Happiness Village was on land the military wants to use as training grounds.

The SANDF spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini said: “As far as I am aware, no such incident has come to my attention.”

The urgent interim interdict was granted last year on November 29 to prevent the evictions. This was handed down at the Johannesburg High Court against the minister of defence and military veterans, SANDF, the SA Army, the officer commanding army support base Johannesburg, the officer commanding the Marievale Engineering Regiment and the officer commanding the Dunnottar military base.

The matter was postponed till Monday where the state attorneys will file their answering affidavits.

In 2011, a judgement was delivered by the Concourt which found municipalities responsible for providing temporary alternative accommodation even when a property is privately owned. The Blue Moonlight case stated that this was an obligation if evictions would lead to homelessness.

Ekurhuleni’s MMC for human settlements Lesiba Mpya on Friday said their only plan to house these people was through RDP housing. “We can’t say they are evicted by the SANDF therefore the onus rests on us. We must observe our own processes before we house them properly and they have to be qualifying beneficiaries for us to be able to give them houses. There are many people living in informal settlements,” he said.

When asked about housing that is meant to be provided before evictions take place he responded saying that the municipality did not evict the people. “SANDF never indicated to use that they are evicting people, but we are dealing with a situation of homelessness. We are not going to turn our backs on those people,” he said.

Mpya said what they have done over the past two months is get data of people from Marievale from the SANDF.

Image by Mohammed Jameel Abdulla