Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Athol Trollip on Friday afternoon condemned the “illegal and armed SANDF occupation of City Hall square”.
This after a group of SANDF members arrived at the City Hall at Vuyisile Mini Square with four trucks and a bakkie and dumped belongings – including couches, laundry baskets, a fridge and toys – in front of City Hall following an eviction at the Forest Hill base.
Trollip said: “We will not stop until those responsible account for this undemocratic act of hooliganism.”
Meanwhile, chief whip Werner Senekal said in a statement, 30 “armed, aggressive and confrontational” soldiers had illegally occupied Vuyisile Mini Square and off-loaded the furniture claiming they had it in their possession as a result of an eviction at the army base. He said they had learnt the eviction was also illegal.
“The SANDF has absolutely no right to dump anything on municipal property and has thus broken numerous by-laws and laws, for which there must be severe consequences,” he said.
“Worse still, many soldiers were armed with assault rifles, fingers poised on triggers, loaded with full magazines. Upon departure, the soldiers proceeded to ram into and cause damage to a municipal vehicle and a small child was also pushed out the way by a senior soldier.”
Senekal said the group’s leader indicated to him they received an instruction “from Pretoria” to occupy the square but when he checked with defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, she denied having any knowledge of this.
“The Minister committed to intervening and conducting an urgent investigation, which I will follow up on,” Senekal said.
“This unprecedented act by the South African Army is both undemocratic and unconstitutional, and has placed numerous lives and municipal property at risk.”
Senekal said the municipality, through acting city manager Johann Mettler, was seeking an urgent court interdict against the SANDF as members said they would return with more furniture. They would also instruct lawyers to get an order against the SANDF to remove the furniture left behind at the City Hall.
A criminal case for malicious damage to property, illegal dumping, intimidation and trespassing will also be opened.
“The municipality will not allow acts of this nature to go unpunished and those responsible will be made to account in a court of law,” Senekal said.