Health concerns at Cape Town Methodist Church

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South African Human Rights Commissioner in the Western Cape Chris Nissen says he is concerned that no proper assessments are being done on those living in the church.

Stakeholders are expected to meet on Monday to pave a way forward.

Health officials from the City of Cape Town and Western Cape Government are doing an oversight inspection inside the Central Methodist Church in the CBD, following reports of four cases of chickenpox.

Foreign nationals have been living inside the church since October after being removed from outside the office of the UN High Commission for Refugees in Green Market Square.

The foreign nationals say their situation has reached a breaking point and they still want to leave the country.

A meeting will be held on Monday to try and find alternative accommodation.

Thursday morning, health officials from the provincial health department and the City were refused entry by a group of foreign nationals led by Jean-Pierre Balous, who was arrested for assault on Wednesday.

Their new spokesperson Kabanga Nadine Nkurikiye has denied reports that there are sick children inside the church.

“Police came and said there are some doctors [here] to come and see the children. We can’t allow anyone to enter because, we, from inside, are scarred for anyone to come in without consent from our president; that is why we say no. We know the hospital, we always go. We’ve been here for three months now, we never see these people coming to help us. Why are they coming today?…”

Conditions unbearable

Conditions inside the church have become unbearable and there is growing concern about its impact on the health of especially children.

Head of communications in the provincial health department, Marika Champion says, “The Western Cape government health department was called by concerned people, alerting us of the possibility of some children falling ill inside the church. Health officials went to the church for routine oversight for any health risk, they are are still in the process of checking…”


Situation remains calm

Meanwhile, the situation at the church remains calm but tense. Sunday night a fracas broke out between two factions over leadership issues. A group living outside the church has accused a prominent leader living inside the church of being untrustworthy.

The leader of the group outside the church, Pupy Sukami was the first to raise concern over an alleged outbreak of chickenpox. He says he is now busy trying to organise unity among all of them.

“We are one community, we have one battle the fear of xenophobic attacks. I’m working since Monday for reconciliation. People from inside can come outside to buy food, their children inside need to eat as well. Yesterday we had a meeting with a delegation of four communities, we will have a meeting very soon to set up for the meeting on Monday with other stakeholders.”