World Bulletin/News Desk
Johannesburg's central Methodist Church could soon face a court battle over plans to evict hundreds of migrants, mostly Zimbabweans, residing inside its five-story premises.
"We are going to negotiate with the church management today [Monday] so they can halt the eviction of poor migrants from the church building," Walter Sefiri, a Johannesburg-based human rights activist, told The Anadolu Agency.
He said if the church's management refused to shelve its eviction plans, he would immediately file an urgent court application to stop the eviction.
"We think our application will be successful, because the people being ordered to leave are poor with nowhere to go," noted Sefiri, standing on the steps of Johannesburg's high court.
The management of the central Methodist church recently decided that hundreds of migrants living in its five-story building should vacate by December 31.
The church has been home to hundreds of migrants from across Africa, with the majority coming from neighboring Zimbabwe.
Bishop Paul Verryn, who was transferred from the church to another diocese in December, had opened the church's doors to hundreds of migrants who had been victims of xenophobic attacks six years ago.
In 2008, mobs of marauding South Africans attacked African migrants living in townships, accusing them of stealing jobs and monopolizing social services.
Despite having been given the eviction order, only a few migrants have so far left the church property.
When AA visited the church on Monday, there were over 300 Zimbabwean migrants still staying on the property, most of whom said they had no plans to leave.
"I will not leave because I have nowhere to go," Maria Hasariregu, a 33-year-old mother of two, told AA on Monday in a darkly lit room where she stays with two dozen other women and children.
She said she did not even have money to buy food for her children.
"I am stressed. I can no longer do anything," Hasariregu told AA.
Alois Mutena, a 33-year-old father of three, has been training homeless migrants to become tailors using sewing machines donated by Bishop Verryn.
"I have several sewing machines here that I have been using to train people – free of charge – with the skills needed to become tailors," he told AA.
"Now I have nowhere to keep them if I move out," Mutena lamented.
There were three patients sleeping inside the home-based care room housing HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis sufferers when AA visited the church on Monday.
"I left the referral hospital on Sunday and was told to return to my family for home-based care," Mazibuko, a Zimbabwean national, told AA from his bed.
"I have been living here since I came to South Africa four years ago," he said. "This is the only home I know."
AA's attempts to obtain comment on the issue from the church's board were unsuccessful.
Most business owners near the church, however, are excited about the planned eviction, saying the large number of migrants had been a nuisance.
"These people have been scaring our customers from coming and buying our merchandise," one textile trader told AA, refusing to give his name.
"There has been a lot of crime on this street, especially pickpocketing and mugging," he said. "Let them [the migrants] go; we're tired of them."
But Noel Muguti, a 38-year-old Zimbabwean migrant who worked as the church's head of security, dismissed the crime allegations.
"This isn't true," he told AA. "Residents of the church have not been involved in any crimes."
Last Mod: 05 Ocak 2015, 22:02