Sat, 07 Dec 2019

Residents of Happiness Village in Marievale, east of Johannesburg, say South African National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers are terrorising them, GroundUp reports.

Mozambican nationals say soldiers beat 11 of them on Friday night and residents say they witnessed the incident.

Four of those who were assaulted have left the area. The remaining men are no longer sleeping in their shacks, but are being accommodated by other residents.

Happiness Village in Marievale was formed by people who were evicted from the Marievale Military Base in November and December 2017. A year later, the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ordered the SANDF to re-accommodate them because the eviction was unlawful. The SANDF appealed the decision but lost.

GroundUp reported that the SANDF had prepared bungalows and 36 tents, but a number of foreign nationals, who were also evicted, were excluded from any re-accommodation.

In April, GroundUp reported that people were refusing to move into the tents.

The SANDF issued a circular letter (not addressed to anyone specifically), headed "Notice of intention to evict you and your household". It said residents had to leave Happiness Village by August 10 and make their own accommodation arrangements.

The letter said this is because the SANDF "cannot conduct any meaningful military exercises due to fear of exposing you and your children to dangerous situations that might result in some of you sustaining injuries".

The letter concludes: "Failure to comply with this notice we reserve our rights to lodge a formal court eviction process against yourselves (sic)."

On Friday night, residents were awoken by screaming and banging coming from a subdivided shack belonging to a group of Mozambican men. SANDF soldiers were trying to evict them.

"We were scared to death as we watched through the window. We thought the soldiers would come to our homes too," said Adelina Mafereka, a resident of Happiness Village. "The men were screaming, lying on the floor, while soldiers holding flashlights and big guns kicked them. It was terrible."

Among the Mozambicans were Peter Sithole and his younger brother Philip. They said they were already asleep when they heard knocking at the shack door.

"When l opened the door, a soldier flashed a light directly into my eyes so that l could not see his face. He then struck me on the face with the back of his gun, saying we must leave the area," said Peter, still visibly shaken by the experience.

The two brothers said they managed to get away and spend the rest of the night in the woods. He and his brother have been living and working in the area for more than five years. Peter said the incident reminded him of the night in 2017 when soldiers first evicted them.

"The soldiers said it was just a teaser of what they will do to the rest of Happiness Village residents if the directive to leave the area is not adhered to," he said.

Dunnottar police spokesperson John Joseph Tomlinson said: "Officers who were on duty on Saturday attended to the matter of people who allege that they were assaulted and a statement was given. But we are not in any position to investigate as no official case of assault has been opened."

Happiness Village community representative Chris Koitsoei said: "The attack on the Mozambicans has caused a stir in our community. People are now living in fear and the SANDF continues to violate court orders; they refuse to accommodate our people."

Louise du Plessis of Lawyers for Human Rights said it is applying for a second contempt of court order against the SANDF.

The SANDF had not replied to GroundUp at the time of publication.

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