South Africans Warned Of Refugee Warlords
: 2020-01-08 03:15:03

The South African Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, says he is ready to unmask warlords, masquerading as refugees, who have been embarrassing South Africa on the world stage.

Motsoaledi spoke out, as the leader of about 800 refugees, occupying a central Cape Town church, appeared in court on Friday, charged with eight assaults.

Jean-Pierre Balous, 38 year old man, who claims to be Congolese, was arrested on Wednesday, after a clash between two factions in the Central Methodist Church on Greenmarket Square, left several people injured.

Motsoaledi said, his Department would host talks tomorrow with refugee representatives, the Human Rights Commission, the City of Cape Town, and religious leaders, to reintegrate the refugees into communities.

Many of the refugees moved to the church on 30 October 2019, after being evicted from an encampment outside the UN High Commissioner for Refugees offices in the city centre. They claim to have been the victims of xenophobic attacks, and are demanding to be relocated to a third country.

But Motsoaledi said, “There is nobody on earth that is going to meet their demands. It is not going to happen, it’s just not possible”.

He disputed claims, that refugees’ lives were in danger, saying there had not been a xenophobic attack in recent months.

“Most people at the church are not there, because they feel unsafe,” he said. “Some have confessed to our officials, that they were sold a dream, that the UNHCR would take them to wealthy countries such as Canada, but unfortunately this has never materialised, and many are now very frustrated with their living conditions”.

A preliminary investigation by the Department of Home Affairs had found that, some of the refugee leaders were warlords from rebel groups in their home countries.

He said, “These soldiers have held South Africa hostage, and unfortunately they have been winning so far, as they have been manipulating everybody”.

One of the refugee leaders, who also lied about his nationality, had 17 bodyguards.

“No head of state has so many bodyguards. But fortunately everything is starting to unravel, and soon their colours will be known by everybody. We will soon have a press conference, to reveal who they really are,” Motsoaledi said.

Jean-Pierre Balous, and the leader of the faction evicted from the church this week, Papy Sukami, claimed to be protecting women and children, said Motsoaledi, but this was not true.

“The leaders have literally hijacked those women and children. They are being held hostage, and have been used by soldiers to get what they want,” Motsoaledi said.

Tensions between the refugees flared last weekend, and when the Sunday Times visited the Methodist church on Tuesday, Balous and Sukami, both surrounded by bodyguards, flung accusations at each other.

Sukami, who had been expelled from the church, said trouble started on Sunday, when Balous ordered his henchmen, to eject a group that discovered he had secretly raised 160,000 rand, through crowd-funding, which he intended to keep for himself. He said, Balous had prevented aid organisations from assisting refugees.

“He gave money to his people to buy machetes and assault us,” said Sukami.

Balous had no interest in finding a solution to the church occupation, he said.

“The longer we stay here, the more he benefits. He takes money, blankets, juice, and food from donors, and keeps them for himself and his Burundian rebels”.

In the sweltering church, which was rank with the smell of hundreds of unwashed bodies, Balous called himself the president of refugees, as two men brought towels to wipe his brow, and answered his cell-phone.

“Papi Sukami is nothing, I brought him in, because he speaks, Congolese language, Lingala,” Balous said.

“I also brought him in because of his disability, he is short, you know, just to give him some dignity”.

He said the money he’d raised, was to buy medication for refugees. A bodyguard showed the Sunday Times a bag of paracetamol tablets.

In court on Friday, Balous looked tired. He was not asked to plead, and was remanded in custody until 10 January 2020.

His supporters and opponents filled the courtroom and a nearby corridor. Outside, public-order police separated a group, mainly consisting of women, holding placards in support of Balous, and a crowd of men opposing him.

David Tshibamba, holding a banner saying “JP is not Congolese, but a Burundian killer, author of the 1994 genocide”.

Another one reads, “I’ve been praying for God to punish JP after he kicked us out of the church. But today he is in jail, and we are celebrating. His true colours are slowly coming out”.

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