Church refugees are still in limbo

NEITHER the City of Johannesburg nor the Gauteng department of local government and housing is willing to foot the bill to house about 100 Zimbabweans living in the Central Methodist Church.

Not a single person living in or around the church has since been relocated to an alternative building despite earlier assurances by local government that this would be done before winter.

Speaking on behalf of local government, Fred Mokoko said: "The city is in charge of that now. We are not commenting on that issueanymore."

But City of Johannesburg spokesperson Nthatise Modingoane had earlier told Sowetan that phase one work on a building to house about 300 people had been completed. He said work on phase two to house a further 700 was under way.

"I think they have got to get someone to take responsibility for costs like who is going to foot the building's maintenance bill. That is probably where the fuss is," said Bishop of the Methodist Church Paul Verryn.

"Another problem is that they did the profiling of people in May and most of the people's circumstances have changed now.

"Another issue is that the population in the church has grown partially due to police raids on people living on the streets," he said.

A senior council official confirmed to Sowetan that money was the sticking point in the relocation of Zimbabweans.

It has also emerged that an NGO that had offered a building to house Zimbabweans for free for three months changed its mind and demanded R1,2million.