Refugees housed in and around the Central Methodist church at Greenmarket Square were served a notice to appear in court on December 9. Picture: Courtney Africa / African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town – The City has been accused of “inhumane behaviour” after issuing protesting refugees with a notice to evacuate the area around Greenmarket Square in the city centre, where they are currently living.

“What we are asking the City of Cape Town and their disaster management is to treat us as human beings, no matter what. We can be refugees, we can be foreigners, but we are human beings. We deserve dignity,” said refugee leader Papy Sukami.

Referring to the notice delivered by sheriff of the court Nelson Ntsibantu, metro police and law enforcement officers yesterday, Sukami said: “We promised the sheriff we are going to do our best to keep the refugees inside the Central Methodist Church.

“But this is a loss of humanity from the City. This is a human disaster. We are (sheltering) inside the church. There are some people sleeping outside the church, but they (the City) just see the way it’s affecting the (informal traders’) business.

“We have been sleeping outside for two months.”

Lamenting that the refugees felt frustrated, unhappy and disappointed about the notice to evacuate the area, including the church, Sukami said this was another form of xenophobia.

The City said the notice was not an eviction application, but related to the conduct of the refugees, who had violated its by-laws.

Refugee leader Papy Sukami comments on the notice they were issued by the City. Video: Raphael Wolf

It asked that the refugees be ordered to refrain from conducting any form of sit-in protests, intimidation, threats, harassing officials or persons involved with law enforcement, damaging assets or facilities or preventing persons from entering or leaving the property along sections of Longmarket and Burg streets, including the pavements and Greenmarket Square.

“This conduct has created an enormous disturbance in and around Greenmarket Square, in the centre of the City of Cape Town,” the court papers stated.

The City said the group had taken over the streets and pavements as they “sleep, cook and attend to personal ablutions and toilet requirements”.

“They also act aggressively towards members of the public, particularly tourists, as well as officials of the City and various law enforcement agencies.

“This has created an enormous problem that approximately one-third of the established Greenmarket Square vendors have been forced to close or relocate their businesses.

“Hotels and restaurants in the area have suffered tremendously due to cancellations,” the City said.

It also made a point of saying that the refugees were not homeless people, as they did not dwell in the city as “homeless persons and by necessary interference must have come from places of residence elsewhere”.

In the application, the City also claimed costs against any of the respondents who opposed the relief sought by them.

Cape Times