Refugee leader in court for alleged assault and robbery in Cape Town
One of the leaders of a splinter refugee group living in the Central Methodist Church in Cape Town appeared in court on robbery charges on Monday.
Lusilu Papy Sukami, 44, was arrested on Friday as tension among the refugees at the church escalated.
According to the charge sheet, Sukami, from the Congo, allegedly assaulted Serge Shauba in the Cape Town CDB in October 2019 and robbed him of an iPhone 6, a Canon camera, a wallet, R2,000, cards, a watch and shoes.
Sukami was also accused of robbing Jurol Leomba, whose Samsung Galaxy cellphone, wallet, R200, Canon camera and bank cards were taken on the same day.
Sukami appeared briefly in the Cape Town magistrate’s court. The state asked for time to obtain more information to prepare for his bail application.
The prosecution said it had received more complaints about Sukami and intended to oppose his release on bail. The matter was postponed until Thursday.
In a statement on Friday, Leomba, a Congolese journalist, claimed Sukami was behind the robberies.
“During the month of October 2019 we were assaulted and robbed by Papy Sukami and his gang of criminals while we went to cover the refugees' sit-in and find out the needs of refugees in order to support them with food, diapers etc,” the statement alleged.
“I personally witnessed how [he] gave orders to his gang of criminals to attack Serge Shaumba, with whom I run a media company.
"I told them you cannot claim to be victims of xenophobic violence while you are involved in violent acts and crimes yourselves. They refused to listen and decided to attack both of us and stole our personal stuff.
"I tried to speak to Papy because our goal wasn’t to stop or hinder the noble protest of the refugees, but he refused and he ordered his people to brutalise me and kick me out of the sit-in venue."
Leomba said Sukami had returned some of the equipment after his arrest.
Sukami’s arrest followed that of another refugee group leader, Jean Pierre Balous, 38. According to police, this was after fellow refugees, housed at the church, accused Balous of assault.
He is “charged with eight cases of assault, five of which are assault with intention to do grievous bodily harm”.
As a result of the tensions, a group of refugees led by Sukami was kicked out of the church building and have been camping outside. The refugees have been housed in the church for the past three months since they were evicted from outside the UN offices in the CBD.