One of the leaders of a group of refugees and asylum seekers staying in the Central Methodist Mission Church in Cape Town, was on Friday granted bail of R2,000 when he appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court.
On New Year’s Day, Jean-Pierre Balous, 39, was arrested on eight charges of assault, including five of assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm.
His arrest follows simmering tension among refugees who appeared to have split into two camps since staying at the church for the past two months.
They have been living there since October after they were forcibly removed from a sit-in protest outside United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in the city centre.
They want the UNHCR to assist them to leave South Africa amid rising fears of attacks aimed at foreign nationals.
On Friday, the court heard the investigating officer confirmed that Balous has an alternative address to the church, a residence in Parow in Cape Town’s northern suburbs.
The department of home affairs has confirmed that he has an asylum seeker’s permit.
There are no pending cases against him and he doesn’t have prior convictions.
The state didn’t oppose bail, with the added condition that Balous may not enter the Cape Town central business district, apart from his court appearances, without the approval of the investigating officer.
The state proposed R5,000 bail, but through his lawyer, Lorenzo Lupin, he indicated that he has R2,000 to pay bail.
The court granted him R2,000 bail on condition that he may not enter the CBD without the investigating officer’s permission.
His case was postponed to March 6 for further investigation.
A small group of Balous’s supporters were outside the court’s entrance. After paying his bail, Balous left the court building through a back entrance and was quickly ushered into a car.
On Thursday, the opposing group’s leader, Papi Sukami, was also released on bail.
He appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on two charges of robbery, News24 reported.
The more than 600 foreign nationals sought refuge in the church after police forcefully dispersed a sit-in protest near the offices of the UNHCR in October.
Balous was the group’s spokesperson in their court case with the City of Cape Town.
Last month, the City asked the Western Cape High Court for an order prohibiting the sit-in and the flouting of health and safety by-laws, alleging that the group was affecting business in the area. During these proceedings, Balous disputed that they have other accommodation.
This matter was postponed to January 22 for Balous to file papers in response to the claims that they had harassed the public.