City of Cape Town gets green light to move refugees
Cape Town - All eyes will be on Greenmarket Square come Wednesday when the City of Cape Town (CoCT) will be able to enforce by-laws that will prevent the refugees from continuing to camp outside the Methodist Church.
On Monday, the Western Cape High Court ruled in favour of the City, paving the way for the area to be cleared.
The refugees have been camped on the pavement around the church and inside the building since December last year.
According to figures quoted in court, 300 refugees are living inside the Central Mission Methodist Church and between 300 and 500 outside on the pavement.
The court ruled that the refugees may no longer live, sleep, cook, wash and perform ablutions in public spaces and should not get in the way of any city official executing their duty.
The court also ruled that CoCT and the Department of Home Affairs start a verification process, which got under way on Wednesday, to document the refugees and provide them with assistance that will allow the CoCT to make a decision about the “position” of the refugees.
On Wednesday, the Sheriff of the Court addressed refugees living in and around the church.
Afterwards, a number of refugees were transported to a temporary Home Affairs Department verification venue set up in the Salt River Civic Centre.
In terms of the court order, the refugees have until March 17 to appeal against the order, but refugee leader, JP Balous told Weekend Argus that “appealing would be a waste of time”.
“Why would we appeal against the same corrupt system? Let them kill us. It’s clear that refugees have no place in South Africa,” he said.
Balous also accused Acting Judge David Thulare of having done a complete about-turn on the welfare of the refugees.
In earlier court proceedings, when asking CoCT advocate Con Joubert SC about where the refugees would be taken should they be removed, Thulare said: “I need to know where they are going if I say remove them. I cannot today be worse than a judge in 1968. Am I not entitled to know?”
The CoCT’s executive director for safety and security, Richard Bosman said their first obligation was to give effect to the court order.
“As stipulated by the court, the respondents have been informed of the order by the Sheriff of the Court and the verification process by the Department of Home Affairs is under way.
“The City understands that there are a number of variables that could arise. We will consider these, should there be a need, and make the best decision under the circumstances,” he said.
Bosman gave the undertaking that the City was committed to resolving the matter as speedily as possible, in line with the court order, and asked that the public allow the Department of Home Affairs and the City to give effect to the order.
Balous, meanwhile, said at this stage it was still unclear where the refugees would be moved to should they be removed from the church and square on Wednesday.
Balous stressed that there would be no violence on Wednesday.
“We will not retaliate. We have told our people not to fight,” he said.