The Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN) is deeply concerned about ongoing harassment and insecurity of the residents of Happiness Village informal settlement, when soldiers from the Marievale military base assaulted residents at their homes, leaving many injured and fearing for their safety.
On 7 February 2021, approximately 100 South African National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers, armed with rifles and pangas, unlawfully invaded the homes of community members in Happiness Village, Marievale. What followed was a series of attacks against peaceful residents, resulting in several homes being destroyed and leaving many residents injured. “They destroyed the whole shack and my things got damaged inside, they pulled and pushed the shack down and they broke my table, damaged my bed, and broke my dishes”, one of the community residents recounted the horrific incident to the SAHRDN. Another resident informed the SAHRDN that the military also requested for identity documents of community members, in order to identify foreign nationals, and warned that they will “deal with foreigners later”.
For several years, the SANDF has continuously threatened the peaceful existence and violated the rights of the Happiness Village community, disregarding numerous court orders prohibiting the ongoing eviction and intimidation of the community. As a result, the SAHRDN and many other organizations have communicated such grievances on several occasions to the relevant government departments at local, provincial and national levels, calling them to uphold its duties of protecting the basic human rights of the community and obeying the rule of law. Unfortunately, no interventions have been made by any of the responsible government bodies.
“Since 2018, each year has passed without justice for members of the Marievale community. It is unfortunate that while the affected community members continue to wait for the implementation of several court orders, that require the government to provide adequate alternative accommodation, excessive use of force and brutality by members of the SANDF continue to persist”, said Arnold Tsunga, Chairperson of the SAHRDN. “The lack of leadership at all levels of government and the weak accountability mechanisms has led to the entrenchment of impunity within the SANDF”, added Mr. Tsunga.
Based on the above stated, the SAHRDN reiterates its previous statement, calling on the government to uphold the rule of law and protect the rights of all Happiness Village residents. The SAHRDN also urges the government to do the following:
- Take immediate steps to ensure the realisation of socio-economic rights of all members of Happiness Village, in accordance with its obligations under the Constitution and international human rights instruments;
- Immediately investigating human rights abuses perpetrated by members of the SANDF, institute disciplinary proceedings against perpetrators and compensate victims of abuses;
- Take steps to ensure the protection of the leader of Happiness Village, Chris Koitsioe, who was threatened by the SANDF at the recent attacks that occurred.
- Take steps to ensure the protection of foreign nations who reside at Happiness Village, in accordance with its obligations under the Constitution and international human rights instruments;
- Taking measures to ensure that members of Happiness Village can hold state actors accountable without fear of political reprisals.