The apparent leader of a group of refugees staying in the Cape Town Methodist Church has been arrested following complaints from other refugees of assault, Western Cape police said on Wednesday.
“The suspect who is from Congo is charged with eight cases of assault – five of which are assault with intention to do grievous bodily harm,” said Brigadier Novela Potelwa in a statement. The man was not named in the statement.
He is due to appear in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Friday.
After his arrest, about 50 members of the refugee group came to the Cape Town central police station to protest against his arrest.
“After being advised to leave, the group duly complied and dispersed. Public Order Police members are keeping an eye on the situation.”
The arrest is part of brewing tensions among refugees who appear to have split into two camps at the Central Methodist Mission.
On Monday, police had to release a stun grenade to stop heated arguments in front of the church on Greenmarket Square, where self-appointed guards were controlling access, News24 reported.
At the time, one of the leaders, Papy Sukami, told News24 that he and JP Balous, with whom he had previously led the group of several hundred people taking refuge, had had a falling out.
“He abused power,” alleged Sukami. “People are victims of his behaviour.”
He said Balous was chasing away people who were trying to help them, including Gift of the Givers.
About 600 people, including more than 100 children, have been living in the church since October 30 after they were forcibly removed from a sit-in protest at the nearby Waldorf Arcade.
They had hoped to be relocated to a country other than their countries of origin, saying they were at risk in South Africa.
Three people were arrested last week Sunday for the possession of dangerous weapons after they became embroiled in an altercation.