Refugee leader Papi Sukami was granted bail in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Thursday after his arrest on two robbery charges during a prolonged impasse over relocation to another country.
Sukami stood on a bench in the dock looking slightly annoyed by the situation, but replied politely to the magistrate after translations from English to French.
He is part of a group of about 600 people living in and around Cape Town’s Central Methodist Mission Church on Greenmarket Square.
They were evicted after a sit-in at the Waldorf Arcade in St George’s Mall. They had been demanding that the United Nations’ refugee agency, the UNHCR, relocate them to another country.
They say they are often targeted due to their nationalities. Their countries of origin include the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Somalia.
Sukami is alleged to have robbed two people of electronic devices, cameras and money.
Later in the morning, Sukami made an unexpected return to the dock to clarify that he couldn’t enter the Cape Town CBD unless he received permission from the investigating officer in order for him to go to the Department of Home Affairs’ offices. He also needs the senior officer’s permission to leave the Western Cape.
Another leader, JP Balous, will appear on assault charges in the same court on Friday.
In the meantime, talks are under way to resolve what some have said is an untenable situation at the church regarding hygiene and cramped living conditions.
Sukami will return to court on March 13.