News24 Wire
Wire Service
2 minute read
22 Jan 2020
4:39 pm

‘We’re hoping the court will be fair to us’ – Cape Town refugees’ wait to hear fate continues

News24 Wire

The City wants 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.

African foreign nationals from various African countries take refuge inside of the Central Methodist Church, in Cape Town, South Africa, 07 January 2020. Following months of taking refuge at the Central Methodist Church there is still no resolution for the refugees with authorities whilst the group's leader has been arrested by police on charges of assault. The foreign nationals cite fears over xenophobic attacks in the South African communities in which they were living and fear for their safety in South Africa. Community leaders complain the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is doing nothing to help them despite repeated appeals for help. Health conditions in the church are deteriorating according to the refugees. Picture: EPA-EFE/NIC BOTHMA

The court case between the City of Cape Town and the refugees and asylum seekers living in the Central Methodist Mission Church on Greenmarket Square has been postponed to next week owing to a lack of documentation compiled for the court.

The case was meant to be heard on Wednesday, having been last heard on 13 December. But it has since been postponed to 28 January.

According to Crispin Mongwe, a spokesperson for the refugees and asylum seekers, the delay is because documentation hasn’t been filed with the court. At the case’s previous hearing, Jean-Pierre Balous represented the refugees and asylum seekers.

There has since been a rift in the group, with many questioning his motives. He was arrested on New Year’s Day on eight charges of assault, including five of assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm. He has since been granted bail, but is not allowed to set foot in Cape Town’s central business district, where Greenmarket Square is situated.

The leader of the group opposing Balous, Papi Sukami, is also out on bail after his arrest on two robbery charges. Mongwe said they had already appointed a committee to represent them in the court case.

The City wants 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. It also alleged that people had urinated and defecated in the streets, cooked over open fires, washed clothes and bathed around the church area, contributing to fire risks.

“All of us are hoping for the court to be fair to us,” said Mongwe.

A common complaint is the lack of ablution facilities, with men concerned about the effect of this on their wives and children. The more than 600 foreign nationals sought refuge in the church after police forcefully dispersed a sit-in protest near the offices of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in October.

They want the UNHCR to remove them from South Africa because of xenophobic attacks last year.

Several of the refugees or asylum seekers who spoke to News24 expressed frustration with the UNHCR’s perceived lack of assistance.

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