JP Balous

Cape Town refugee leader JP Balous attends a hearing at the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court in January 2020.
Photo: Twitter/Nadine Theron

Cape Town refugees: Heavy security as leader returns to the stand

JP Balous’ followers were denied access to the court, and the refugee leader will remain behind bars until his next court date on 16 March 2020.

JP Balous

Cape Town refugee leader JP Balous attends a hearing at the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court in January 2020.
Photo: Twitter/Nadine Theron

As was to be expected after Friday’s pandemonium at the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court involving refugee leader Jean-Pierre “JP” Balous, security was robust on Monday 9 March when he and his co-accused returned to the stand.

Supporters of the Congolese national who was engaged in a fracas with police on Friday 6 March when officers attempted to arrest Balous after he was charged with eight counts of assault and intimidation, were blocked from gaining entry to the court gallery.

Balous was able to escape custody and walk out of the court alongside his supporters on Friday, allegedly with the officer’s handcuffs still in tow. He was eventually apprehended again along with his co-accused — fellow Congolese national Ombemi Awuri Issa, 27, and Burundian national Issa Lion, 50.

Security was not going to let the same scenes unfold on Monday though, with a heavy contingent of officers watching on as they demonstrated outside the court with placards, proclaiming their leader’s innocence.

Case postponed

The three men ultimately made a very brief appearance in court, with the case postponed until 16 March to allow the accused to consult with their Legal Aid attorneys and for bail conditions to be considered. Balous has opted to represent himself in the matter.

Altogether, Balous is charged with eight counts of assault, five of which relate to intent to cause grievous bodily harm, as well as counts of theft, intimidation, defeating the ends of justice and resisting arrest.

Issa and Lion face similar charges, but are also charged with transgressing the Immigration Act.

Death threats

Balous was accused by South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) commissioner Chris Nissen, who was involved in a brawl that broke out at the Cape Town Central Methodist Church, in Greenmarket Square, in December 2019. Nissen, along with Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, were allegedly assaulted by Balous and his followers.

Later, Balous allegedly threatened to kill Nissen.

“[Balous]… saw me and said: ‘You tried to divide the refugee community. I have evidence that you’ve worked with people to divide the community.’ Then he said to me: ‘I am going to kill you’.”

SAHRC commissioner Chris Nissen

It was at that point that the SAHRC washed their hands of the group who had uncompromisingly refused several offerings of support from the commission.

Nissen told The South African that the SAHRC would continue to provide support for the group of refugees who were evicted from the streets surrounding the church, and who now sleep on the streets outside the Cape Town central police station.