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Joburg refugees to move

By unknown | Mar 24, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Katlego Moeng

Katlego Moeng

The Moth Building stands on Remembrance Square, off Loveday Street, on the periphery of the Johannesburg CBD.

It's a non-descript threestorey building which, like others in the area, was abandoned when the decay set in. But it will soon be brought back to life when new tenants move in. It is one of five buildings that have been earmarked for destitute Zimbabwean nationals - most probably women and children - to ease congestion at the Central Methodist Church.

At least 1000 people will be housed at this building. Although the Johannesburg City Council was reluctant to confirm this, security guards at the entrance said "it's Verryn's building". They didn't know when the new tenants would move in.

But Bishop Paul Verryn of the Central Methodist Church did confirm that Moth Building would house the refugees who are now spilling onto the pavements around the church. He is worried, though, that the process is taking too long.

A lot of money - R6million - and work will be needed to spruce up the building. The city says it will sign the lease but does not have the money for repairs. Verryn does not have the money either.

A walk through the main entrance shows the effects of years of disuse. Inside the dark and gloomy building, some of the walls are peeling off and the roof, in what was a large entrance hall, has caved in.

"Vandals have removed everything that could be used or sold as scrap metal," said a security guard. The electricity and water connections are all damaged and most of the windows are shattered. The floor also needs to be renovated.

The guards have been there since November last year and had to kick out dozens of squatters from the building.

The City of Johannesburg said the lease for the Moth Building is subject to conditions on the management of the building.

But Verryn has told Sowetan that "issues like the water bill were still being negotiated because the church cannot afford another water bill".

COJ spokesperson Gabu Tugwana said a lasting solution to the refugee crisis could be found through coordinated efforts of national, provincial and local government as well as the support of the business sector.

Gauteng local government spokesperson Themba Sepotokele said the government was appealing to churches and NGOs to assist.

"The department of social development will also give relief to the Zimbabweans. We have to provide certain basic services and consider that there are children as well," said Sepotokele.

He said the government does not want its efforts to lead to more xenophobic violence.

"As government attempts to provide interim and integrated solutions to provide a conducive and decent environment for the Zimbabweans, we appeal to South Africans to understand," he said.


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