Pretoria – Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, in her official capacity as head of the SANDF, is facing a claim of about R120 million from civilian families ousted from the Marievale military base near Nigel.
The families have obtained a series of court orders against the minister and the department since they were forced from the base in 2017.
The gist of the orders is that the defence force should allow them back on to the base and restore them to their homes there. In the case these homes were no longer available, they should receive alternative accommodation.
But the legal stand-off between the minister and the families has not been resolved and the matter is due back in the Gauteng High Court early this year.
The minister insisted that the department had adhered to court orders and did provide those involved with alternative accommodation.
The families, however, obtained various contempt of court orders against the department, claiming the alternative accommodation was non-existent or not suitable.
Some of the families built informal homes not far from their old houses, according to GroundUp.
About 98 families have now instructed their lawyers to claim damages from the department as compensation for the hardships they have endured in the intervening period, and which is ongoing.
In addition to their physical housing issues, they are claiming that they suffered emotional damage when “gun-wielding soldiers” forced them out of their homes during a raid.
Letters of demand have been sent to the defence force, in which the families claim between R100000 and more than R1.5m.
The next step will be to issue summons, but because the claims are against a state department, the claimants first had to issue a lawyer’s letter to the department in this regard.
The regiment base in Marievale was disbanded in 2004, resulting in fewer military personnel staying on the base.
The civilian families claimed that they had moved on to the base through a lease agreement which they had concluded with the military authorities.
They were told by the SANDF in 2009 that they had to vacate the premises because the SANDF wanted to re-establish the base, and make the homes available to military personnel.
The families affected complained to the SA Human Rights Commission and stayed on in their homes until the day they say they were evicted.
In the biggest case, Johannes Sifunda is claiming R1m in constitutional damages and R250000 for pain and suffering and for medical costs and loss of earnings.
Sifunda said in his letter of demand that he arrived home at the base on November 30, 2017, to be met by “a platoon of about 15 soldiers” and various armoured vehicles and military trucks.
He claimed he was interrogated, beaten with R4-rifles and kicked until he collapsed.
Only then did the soldiers stop.
Sifunda said he ended up in intensive care and he and his family had been without a home ever since.
The family of Willem Koekemoer, who also lived on the base, is claiming more than R1m in damages.
Koekemoer committed suicide in 2018 and his family ascribe this to the trauma of the situation at Marievale.