ZIM Refugees to move from CDB

A second batch of refugees living on pavements around the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg will be moved to a new location, probably in mid-June. .

A second batch of refugees living on pavements around the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg will be moved to a new location, probably in mid-June. .

Gauteng government spokesperson Daniel Ramarumo said yesterday that renovations had started on the building identified for the relocation of the refugees and these would probably be finished in the next three weeks.

So far, 134 of the thousands of refugees who flocked to the church in the past year had been relocated, he said. They were taken to My Lillypot building in Rosettenville.

The second relocation would be of the remaining 560 people sleeping outside the church and 130 "vulnerable" people, including unaccompanied children or people with disabilities, living inside the church.

Thousands of Zimbabweans have streamed into South Africa in the past two years to escape the threat of attack and disease in their country as it grappled with an economic meltdown and political upheaval.

However, finding themselves up against the threat of xenophobic attacks, cholera and meningitis in this country, and with nowhere else to go, they went to the Central Methodist Church.

Methodist Church Bishop of Johannesburg Reverend Paul Verryn has shouldered both praise and criticism for harbouring them at the church, at one stage even facing death threats - apparently from businessmen in the area.

The Gauteng government and the City of Johannesburg were forced to act after a law firm in the area took them to court for failing to enforce municipal bylaws.

The South Gauteng high court ordered the removal of the refugees from the CBD.

In March, the provincial government said it had identified six buildings in and around the city for the refugees' relocation.

Of an estimated 2563 refugees living in the church, 1800 registered for relocation with the help of the UN High Commission for Refugees, but this was put on hold while the suitability of the buildings and the need for renovations was assessed.

Gauteng local government department spokesperson Lebogang Tladinyane said at the time that there was accommodation for at least 1000 people.

He said the buildings would be leased for three months. A long-term plan was being formulated with international and local non-governmental organisations.

Yesterday, Ramarumo refused to say whether the second building was in Johannesburg. He said it was not in Rosettenville, but was "in the province". "It's very close. Not very far," he said. - Sapa

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