Refugees promised housing …arrests at Methodist Church

refugees_sleepingJOHANNESBURG Just as it was announced that accommodation for a thousand Zimbabwean refugees was nearing completion, as city police launched a fresh outbreak of arrests against the dispossessed. (Pictured: (CREDIT - South Africa 2009 Austin Andrews) People bed down for the night in a hallway of the Central Methodist Church)

Deputy Director of Communications for Johannesburg, Nthatisi Modingaone, said the first phase of the accommodation was complete and would be available by next week. This follows the refurbishment of a building in the citys Central Business District (CBD).

The refurbished building will accommodate a total of 300 people while 700 others will be taken care of in the second phase, said Modingaone.

Despite this, Metro Police have bent to pressure from Johannesburg high court lawyers who have been complaining about the littering around the court.
About 500 people around the high court and church were arrested on Friday night for violating city by- laws, including loitering, littering and public indecency.
The police said that they would continue the blitz. There are laws to be enforced, said spokesperson, Edna Mamonyane.

Housing welcomed
Bishop Paul Verryn, whose Central Methodist Church has been providing accommodation to an estimated 4,500 Zimbabweans, said he was relieved by the provision of housing but concerned by the arrests. Why did they do this in the face of the city making a building available to alleviate the pressure on the streets? said the churchs Bishop Paul Verryn. The provision of housing has been welcomed by displaced women who claimed that they had been sexually abused while sleeping outside the Johannesburg High Court.

The new accommodation being provided by the City of Johannesburg will definitely go a long way towards alleviating our suffering. This winter I have men coming here to pick up hungry and desperate women, said a 24 year-old woman from Chitungwiza.

Desperate and need help
The MDC South Africa released a statement condemning the recent police attacks.
This unwarranted swoop came at a time when we expected the Provincial Government and Johannesburg Council to provide women and children sleeping outside the church with decent shelter. We got the opposite: arrests, detentions, beatings, pepper-sprays, fines and stun grenades. These people staying at the Methodist Church are not a nuisance, but are desperate and need help, said the statement. They urged Mayor Amos Masondo and Premier Nomvula Makonyane to intervene on behalf of the Zimbabwean citizens. The arrests were also condemned by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) and the Legal Resources Centre (LRC).

No justification
A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs, Ronnie Mamoepa, said Home Affairs was not involved in the raid. The police released seven people this week on medical grounds, according to an MSF spokesperson.

“There can be no justification for continuing to detain them, which… appears to be intended only to intimidate people who are already marginalised,” said a joint statement released by the LRC, LHR and Aids Law Project.

According to NGOs, at least eight minors are still being held in custody. Despite the pressure from local organizations, the police said they would continue with the raids.

“Those people must do their jobs and we must do our job,” said metro police Director David Tembe. “We’ll have more raids.”

He said anyone sleeping on the streets would be targeted. “It’s got nothing to do with foreigners.”

Post published in: Politics

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *