South Africa: ICJ demands response to attacks against human rights defenders

JOHANNESBURG – The ICJ condemns the ongoing violence committed against and intimidation of community members of the Marievale Community Association. Last night a petrol bomb was thrown onto the roof of Chris Koitsioe’s home at approximately 1am while his wife was asleep and alone.

Chris is a community leader and a former SANDF staff sergeant who has consistently opposed the community’s eviction and mistreatment by the SANDF.

The ICJ calls on President Ramaphosa, as Commander in Chief of the SANDF, the Minister of Defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and Lieutenant General Lindile Yam to condemn these outrageous and persistent attacks on members of the community. Furthermore, we call on the SANDF and Minister of Defence and other public officials to comply with and implement all court orders relating to the Marievale community and ensure the safe, expeditious and unimpeded return of community members to their homes. The ICJ further calls for the authorities to openly and transparently investigate this assault on Mr Koitsioe’s home and bring the perpetrators to justice.

The Community was unlawfully evicted from their homes on an abandoned army base near Nigel, Johannesburg South, in late November 2017. They have won repeated court orders from the South and North Gauteng High Courts, ordering the SANDF to return them to their homes and condemning their ill treatment by SANDF members during and after their eviction.

Most recently, with the assistance of Lawyers for Human Rights, the community approached the North Gauteng High Court, seeking the arrest of the Minister of Defence and several army generals involved in the evictions for a failure to comply with orders of the High Court requiring them to be returned to their homes. Though last week, this contempt of court order was denied by the North Gauteng High Court, the court reiterated that the community is to be returned to their homes by Friday 7 December 2018.

Attorney at LHR, Ms. Louise Du Plessis expressed that the “LHR is deeply concerned about the ongoing unlawful conduct taking place at Marievale, especially because of the suspected involvement of the SANDF”. She added: “although, at this stage it is merely an allegation that the SANDF is responsible for the attack on Chris’ family, there is good reason to believe that [Chris] is being targeted for leadership role in the fight to see justice done for the Marievale community, after the appalling and callous eviction at the hands of the SANDF”.

This serious attack on Mr Koitsioe’s home occurred directly in this context.

Mr Koitsioe says “members of the community resisting their eviction in court, feel that the army has encouraged and sown divisions in our midst deliberately”. He adds, “whether this attack was perpetrated with or without the influence and knowledge of the army, it is critical that the SANDF roundly condemn such attacks to prevent further violence against innocent community members seeking only to protect our constitutional rights and internationally recognized human rights”. He concludes “my family and I are traumatised, I have reason to believe that this attack was deliberately perpetrated when it was known that I would be out of town speaking to a group of 25 magistrates in Limpopo about the importance of understanding and protecting communities’ housing rights”.

“While the army should be a source of security for everyone in South Africa, the Marievale community have faced persistent and repetitive violations of their economic, social and cultural rights at the hands of the SANDF. Such conduct is a significant and serious threat to the rule of law” lamented Arnold Tsunga, ICJ Africa Director. “The ICJ is concerned at the pattern of similar attacks against other communities claiming their rights in court such as AbahlaliBaseMjondolo in KwaZulu-Natal and the Amadiba Crisis Committee in Xolobeni who have faced similar harassment, assault and even assassination for claiming their rights” added Tsunga.

Public authorities in South Africa has an obligation under international human rights law and standards to ensure that the bombing of Chris Koitsioe’s home and other such acts of violence and intimidation are promptly, independently and impartially investigated. Those responsible for such attacks must be brought to justice and victims of any human rights violations involved must receive effective redress and remedy.

In October 2018, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights noted that it was “concerned at reports of human rights defenders, particularly those working to promote and defend the rights under the Covenant in the mining and environmental sectors, being threatened and harassed”. Koitsioe advises that the community has long suspected that part of the motivation for its eviction is the recent initiation of coal mining activities near their homes.


Further comment:

Chris Koitsioe| Marievale Community Association| C: +27738370265

Louise Du Plessis |Attorney | Lawyers for Human Rights  C: +27823460744 E: louise(a)

Timothy Fish Hodgson|Legal Adviser on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights| International Commission of Jurists| C: +27828719905 E; timothy.hodgson(a)


Further Resources:

The judgment handed down on 30 November 2018 is available here.

The judgment handed down in May 2018 is available here.

The judgment handed down in March 2018 is available here.

The judgment handed down in February 2018 is available here.

The South African Constitution is available here.

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