Human Rights Commission washes hands of Greenmarket Square protesters

29 January 2020 - 15:38 By timeslive
Hundreds of refugees have been living inside and outside the Central Methodist Mission in Cape Town for months and the church will now pursue other avenues to address the situation.
Hundreds of refugees have been living inside and outside the Central Methodist Mission in Cape Town for months and the church will now pursue other avenues to address the situation.
Image: GroundUp/Madison Yauger

The SA Human Rights Commission is withdrawing its assistance to a group of protesters occupying the Central Methodist Mission on Greenmarket Square, central Cape Town, citing aggression on the part of one of their leaders.

The refugees, who are demanding relocation to other countries, have been protesting for months, first outside the UNHCR offices in St Georges Mall and then at the church where they have been for three months. 

In the latest move by various role players in the saga, the city of Cape Town this week brought an action to the high court asking for the right to invoke its bylaws against littering, lighting fires on the pavement, and public urination and defecation. A decision is expected in three weeks.

The SAHRC said in a statement on Wednesday that before Tuesday's court proceedings, a death threat was directed at its commissioner, Chris Nissen, by one of the group's  leaders.

Allegations and claims were also made against Nissen “which are spurious and infringe on the dignity and integrity of the commissioner and the SAHRC,” the organisation said.

“The commission has absolute faith that the allegations are without substance ... "

The commission said Nissen had been “unflagging in his efforts to find a peaceful and lasting solution to the protest”.

Over four months, the commission has been convening meetings with role players in an attempt to seek alternative housing and to ensure the safety of vulnerable women and children in the group.

Now, the commission said, it “can no longer be involved in any further engagements”.

The SAHRC said it was also considering its legal recourse over “the threats to the life of commissioner Nissen and will take action against any persons who, in contravention of the law and disrespect for the commission, make unfounded accusations against it”.


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