The case against the second leader of the refugees housed at the Central Methodist Church in the Cape Town CBD has been postponed.
Papy Sukami appeared briefly in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on two charge of robbery on Monday, after being arrested the previous week.
It follows reports that the 41-year-old, alongside a group of his supporters, had allegedly robbed two journalists of expensive equipment nearly two months ago.
A sit-in at the at church has entered its fourth month. Hundreds of refugees seeking asylum had demanded that the United Nations Human Rights Commission for Refugees (UNHRC) relocate them, citing fears of xenophobia and crime in South Africa. The group recently experienced a split, following the emergence of two leaders, namely Sukami and Jean-Pierre Balous, commonly referred to as “JP”, who also appeared in court last week.
Balous faces eight counts of assault, five of which are for intent to do serious bodily harm. It is understood that among the cases is that of an elderly woman whom Balous allegedly pushed, causing extensive damage to her legs.
When the 39-year-old appeared on Friday 3 January 2020, dozens of refugees staged a peaceful protest outside the Cape Town Magistrate court. The group was visibly divided, with one side calling for Balous to face added charges such as bribery, fraud and conspiracy to commit genocide; while the other branded Balous as their rightful leader and claimed he is the “refugees last hope”.
The split was reinforced on Sunday 29 December 2019, after violence broke out at the church when the two leaders disputed the commencement of a church service.
The Human Rights Commission’s Chris Nissan also told VOC News that a meeting will be held with UNHCR, Home Affairs, the South African Police Service, the City of Cape Town and representatives from the refugee community on Monday, to look at solutions such as reintegration.
Resolutions to refugees’ demands to be relocated or granted temporary housing have failed to materialize.
Balous is expected to reappear in court on Friday for a formal bail application.
The case against Sukami was also postponed to Thursday, pending further investigation.
Both leaders are expected to remain in custody, as their supporters reject media requests’ for comment.