Eviction victim traumatised

Woman too scared to return to base after soldiers’ actions

One of the women evicted from the Forest Hill military base in Port Elizabeth by soldiers is too frightened to return home, despite a court order allowing her to do so.

This comes as South African National Defence Force investigators will start their probe into the bizarre incident that led to Alta Smit’s belongings being dumped in front of the Port Elizabeth City Hall by armed soldiers on Friday.

SANDF spokesman Brigadier-General Xolani Mabanga said while investigators would look into the reasons why the furniture was dumped there, they would not probe why soldiers were issued with guns for carrying out the task.

“People might talk about it, but for us it is a matter of routine. A firearm is part of a uniform,” he said. Mabanga said Smit’s eviction was one of many carried out countrywide as there were families illegally occupying military housing.

About 20 soldiers, most of them armed with semi-automatic firearms, arrived in trucks at the City Hall on Friday and, amid threats and open displays of aggression, offloaded Smit’s furniture and household goods. Smit had been living on the base for nearly 17 years. She was married to an SANDF member, from whom she is now divorced.

Her former husband no longer lives on the base.

Chandre Klaasen was also evicted from the Forest Hill army base.

Smit’s lawyer, Jerome Hicken, said they would meet with Forest Hill military base commander Colonel Veli Phakathi today. Hicken said that they obtained an urgent interdict from the Port Elizabeth High Court allowing Smit to return to her house on Friday on the basis that the army did not obtain a proper eviction order in terms of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction Act.

“She is too frightened to go [back] there by herself,” Hicken said.

“She was evicted from her house by armed soldiers who were very aggressive. She is very traumatised.”

Hicken said Smit’s belongings would be stored in a warehouse on the base until she could return home.

Phakathi referred all queries to Mabanga.

“The pivotal part of the investigation would be if Phakathi gave the order for the furniture to be dumped at City Hall, or if the soldiers did it on their own accord,” Mabanga said.

“We don’t know why it happened.”

Nelson Mandela Bay acting city manager Johann Mettler said soldiers at the military base refused to accept the court order compelling them to remove the furniture on Friday.

After legal threats that the sheriff would seize the goods, unarmed soldiers came to load the furniture, as Judge Glenn Goosen instructed in his order.

Mettler said they also laid complaints of intimidation, trespassing and illegal dumping against those involved.