Zimbabwe refugee suspend South Africa court challenge

Zimbabwean refugees have suspended plans to apply for court protection after authorities had asked them last month to vacate a church in downtown Johannesburg.

Verryn
Verryn

It follows an agreement between them and the Central Methodist Church to politely resolve their eviction dispute.

They met for talks with church leaders yesterday and called for a grace period of about three months while they looked for alternative shelter.

“Our lawyer has put the application on hold,” Robert Chirikure, one of the refugees, told The Zimbabwean.

“We had discussions with Bishop Paul Verryn and the Reverend (Ndumiso Ngcobo) trying to reach an amicable solution to this matter.”

Zimbabwe’s economic crisis in 2008 coincided with deadly xenophobic attacks in South Africa, prompting Verryn to allow scores of migrants for refuge in the church.

Authorities had given roughly 500 refugees until 31 December 2014 to leave and seek accommodation elsewhere after being kept for more than a decade.

This was allegedly to pave way for renovations as the church has deteriorated into a slum due to a large number of occupants.

Some immediately left while others vowed to stay behind. It has since emerged that they were never forcibly locked out as earlier reported in the media.

Asked for comment, activist Brian Muziringa, who is close to the developments, said those already leaving were not coerced to do so.

Normally in Johannesburg the Red Ants, the security officers feared for their violent manner, are called in to carry out evictions.

Muziringa would not be drawn into the court matter, but confirmed those who remained had nowhere to immediately find shelter.

He said: “They have tangible reasons. South African laws allow for people to be given a chance to seek alternative accommodation.”

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