Image via Twitter: jakabongo

Second Cape Town refugee leader released on R2 000 bail

JP Balous, a second leader of the Cape Town refugees housed in the Central Methodist Church, has been released on bail on Friday.


Image via Twitter: jakabongo

A second leader of a group of refugees housed in the Central Methodist Church, in Cape Town’s Greenmarket Square, appeared in court on Friday 10 January and has since been released on R2 000 bail.

According to EWN, Congolese refugee leader Jean-Pierre “JP” Balous was arrested in the first week of the new year for assault and robbery.

His bail conditions stipulate that he’s not allowed in the Cape Town CBD.

Outside the courthouse, a group of his supporters had gathered, holding posters which read: “JP is the last hope for us refugees”; “He is not a criminal”.

On Thursday 9 January, another one of the refugee leaders, Papy Sukami, also from the Congo, was also released on bail. Sukami was also arrested and accused of robbery and assault.

Two refugee leaders at loggerheads 

The two leaders are at loggerheads over who represents the dozens of foreigners at the church. 

According to GroundUp, Reverend Alan Storey wrote that violence broke out on 29 December following a split between the two refugee leaders. This forced the police to intervene. 

Some of the foreign nationals have been wearing T-shirts supporting one or the other leader.

Storey, who runs the Central Methodist Mission on Cape Town’s Greenmarket Square has condemned the “fallout between the refugee leadership” at the church. 

Storey said in a statement published on Friday, that this has caused a “volatile” and “hostile” environment in the church.

Hundreds of foreigners have been staying inside and outside the church in the city centre for the past few months.

Refugees in negotiations with UNHCR

Since the violent removal of refugees who, in October 2019, had camped outside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), no further strides have been made in meeting their demands.

Refugees have since sought shelter inside and outside the Central Methodist Church while engaged in negotiations with the City of Cape Town and the UNHCR about being relocated to “safer countries”.

Denied shelter 

The refugees have asked for safe, temporary shelter, while the UNHCR and the Department of Home Affairs begin the screening and relocation process.

However, mayco member for safety and security JP Smith confirmed that the City of Cape Town was not interested in granting refugees this “temporary” space.

Instead, law enforcement officers have been briefed on an operation to remove foreign nationals from the church as the city views their occupation of the space as unsustainable.