South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) commissioner Chris Nissen headed to Cape Town central police station to lodge criminal complaints following alleged death threats by refugees leader Jean-Pierre Balous.
Balous has denied this.
This followed the SAHRC withdrawing from assisting refugees sheltered at the Central Methodist Church on Greenmarket Square, citing death threats allegedly made to Nissen before the start of proceedings in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday.
The case hinges on the City’s desire to relocate the refugees away from the CBD and the church in which they have been sheltering since October.
The refugees said they had taken action as a result of xenophobia.
Nissen, speaking at the police station, said: “Now the police will have to investigate. But I just want to make it clear that we (SAHRC) will not walk away from assisting anyone from the refugee community. The commission will not deal with this leader (Balous) any more.”
Balous said he was unaware of Nissen’s charges. “I never threatened and I never met him anywhere apart from inside the high court on January 28. That’s when I spoke to him face to face, warning him to stay away from refugee affairs.”
He accused Nissen of having no regard for the justice system, and said the refugees didn’t want him to get involved with their struggle.
“I told him he must refrain completely from engaging himself in our affairs, and that was in an open space where everyone could hear what I was saying, and was sitting in a court that was filled with police and members of the public.”
He labelled the charges a smear campaign.