In the past several years, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has continuously violated the rights of the residents of Marievale community despite numerous court orders prohibiting the forced eviction and relocation of the community. The Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN) remains extremely troubled by the government’s failure at local, provincial and national levels to uphold its duties on protecting the basic human rights of the community and obeying the rule of law. These evictions have continued during the COVID-19 pandemic despite Lockdown Regulations explicitly prohibiting the execution of eviction orders during Lockdown periods.
“Although numerous court orders against the government represented victories that continue to affirm the rights of the Marievale community, it remains deeply concerning that the continued attacks and intimidation tactics are perpetrated by the SANDF and local government against some of its most vulnerable members of society”, said Arnold Tsunga, Africa Director of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and Chief Strategy and Technical Advisor of the SAHRDN. “Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society should not continue to suffer at the hands of those who are meant to protect them” he added.
Since the unlawful eviction that occurred in 2017, the Marievale community has obtained a series of court judgments and orders against the state, holding that the community should be allowed back to the their homes, or be provided with adequate alternative accommodation in accordance with their rights.
On 21 May 2020, representing members of the community, Lawyers for Human Rights obtained a court order interdicting the SANDF and the Municipality “from once again” forcefully relocating the Marievale community. However, in an interview conducted by the ICJ on a visit to the residents of Marievale, community leader Mr. Chris Koitsioe says that the SANDF continues to disregard the court order as it has recently unlawfully evicted a community member without providing alternative accommodation. As explained by Mr. Koitsioe in the video which is included on this post below, the actions of the SANDF and the government over a long period of time have instilled fear amongst members of the community, causing distress of further relocations, evictions, and intimidation, despite the SANDF having now committed to not continue such practices.
The SAHRDN makes the following calls in solidarity with the Marievale community:
- The SANDF, the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans and the Ekurhuleni Municipality must ensure that no further evictions, relocations and intimidation of the Marievale community continues in violation of multiple court orders and the human rights of the community;
- That the President, as the Commander in Chief of the SANDF, takes appropriate action to ensure that the violation of the community’s rights by the SANDF on a continuous basis since 2017 is investigated and appropriate action is taken to ensure access to justice and reparation for community members; and
- That the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans ensure the accountability of the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans for the violation of the community’s rights by the SANDF on a continuous basis.