Refugee ‘leader’ back in court

The refugees who were evicted from outside the Methodist Church in Greenmarket Square has now set up camp in Albertus Street, near the police station

JP Balous, the self proclaimed leader of refugees who are now occupying the pavement in Albertus Street near the police station, appeared in court on Monday for the assault of a police officer and defeating the ends of justice.

Mr Balous, and two other men who allegedly helped him escape arrest on Friday March 6, will not be granted bail, and the case has been postponed to Monday March 16.

Mr Balous appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on charges of assault, including five for assault with the intention to inflict grievous bodily harm, for which he was arrested last year during a dispute with rival leader, Papi Sumaki, outside the Methodist Church on Greenmarket Square (“Refugee leaders arrested”, CapeTowner, January 9).

Cape Town Central spokesman, Captain Ezra October, said on Friday, he had walked out of the dock and had been arrested again, following a warrant of his arrest for contravening his bail conditions.

Mr Balous allegedly intimidated the Human Rights Commissioner, Chris Nissen, who subsequently laid charges (“Rival refugees in stand-off,” CapeTowner, February 6).

Captain October said when the investigating officer went to his place of residence in Parow, Mr Balous was not there.

“Police then waited for the court appearance and arrested him there.”

During Mr Balous’ appearance, a group of supporters allegedly assaulted the police officer who had carried out the arrest, and Mr Balous managed to leave the courts with a handcuff on one hand.

He was re-arrested in Caledon Street, along with two men who allegedly helped him escape.

Meanwhile, the refugees who were living outside the Methodist church have set up camp near the police station in Albertus Street, while a group still lives inside the church.

After an operation by the City on Sunday March 1 to remove the refugees from the pavement outside the church and Old Town House across the road, following the High Court order, the group then invaded the grounds of the St Mary’s Cathedral and were forcibly removed after the church laid charges of trespassing (“City enforces by-laws, removes refugees”, CapeTowner March 5).

Initially there was resistance but the group then proceeded to the Cape Town Central police station, escorted by the City’s enforcement agencies, to be placed under arrest.

Captain October said the station did not have accommodation for the refugees, and that further relief needs to be sought from the court. The City has since considered returning to the Western Cape High Court for further relief of the situation with the refugees. In a statement, the City said they were in the process of assisting the refugees with reintegration where they have indicated their willingness.

“The City must now consider whether to approach the High Court urgently for further relief or whether to deal with this issue on the return date of Tuesday March 17.”