Discussions between the leadership of the refugees and the South African Human Rights Commission are ongoing. We must all continue to hope that they provide a way forward as soon as possible. I remind you that I am not part of these discussions.
I have received a number of complaints from business people and traders in the area. Business and trade are suffering. This is concerning especially in the present economic climate and tourist season.
I am therefore putting in writing what I have repeatedly discussed with the leaders of the refugees:
From the beginning the Church’s priority was the safety of people. That is why I tried to get children into the church during the police action on the 30th October 2019.
I have stated from the 30th October 2019 that staying in the church is temporary. Since then I have repeatedly said that the safe space the church is providing is no longer safe. Therefore, I have asked everyone to vacate the church. The reasons for this include:
Continued Fire Risk: The City of Cape Town issued the Church with a NOTICE TO COMPLY on the 19th November. The basis of this notice is that the usage of the building has converted from church to residential usage. This is against the law. In other words, the Church is now in contravention of the law and therefore we would be completely liable should any disaster take place. This is unacceptable. Yet until people leave, I continue to repeat:
i. All people and belongings to be moved from the designated exits and escape doors at all times. This must happen with immediate effect.
ii. Passageways to be kept open at all times.
iii. No smoking, cooking or lighting of matches in the church.
iv. Make sure the plug points are not being overloaded by the boiling of kettles and the charging cell phones.
v. Make sure all the fire extinguishers are visible and easily accessible.
vi. Make sure no-one is sleeping on the landing area up the stairs.
vii. Inform people that cooking with open fires outside the church is not allowed.
Continued Health Risk: The City of Cape Town has reported the health risks in and around the Church.
i. The overcrowding contributes to the spread of diseases.
ii. If there is a sudden rush of people – children and babies may be crushed in a stampede.
iii. The limited toilets and bathroom facilities are totally inadequate for the large group of people.
iv. There is not enough fresh air circulating throughout the building.
v. They have also mentioned that cooking outside in close proximity to mattresses and blankets (fire risk) and rubbish bins as well as people urinating in and around the area in against the law.
Women and Children: The most vulnerable are our highest concern.
i. No men are allowed to sleep inside the church at night.
We hope for a speedy, just, respectful and peaceful resolution. We pray too that all hearts, including our own, do not harden, but ever remain open to the priceless worth of all involved.