WATCH | R600,000 repairs for Cape Town 'refugee church' before Easter

Hundred-year-old oil painting destroyed, organ damaged during refugees' five-month stay in Methodist Church

09 April 2020 - 08:00 By Anthony Molyneaux

Metres-long carpets have been ripped up and damaged pews lay on their sides at the iconic Central Methodist Mission in Greenmarket Square, in Cape Town, after hundreds of refugees who lived in the church for over five months were removed by police on April 2.

“The clearing out and fumigation will cost R100,000 alone. Installing the new carpets, fixing the pews, repairing the plumbing system, electrics and fixing the doors will cost at least R500,000,” said Rev Alan Storey of the Methodist Church.

The Central Methodist Mission in Cape Town was left in disarray after police last week removed refugees who had been living in the building for over five months.
The Central Methodist Mission in Cape Town was left in disarray after police last week removed refugees who had been living in the building for over five months.
Image: Supplied

Storey offered the refugees safety under the church’s roof after they were removed by the city’s law enforcement from outside the UNHCR offices in October 2019. They were demanding to be moved to another country, citing xenophobia in SA as threatening their lives.

“When I saw the violent way the refugees were removed from outside the UNHCR offices, I felt we needed to help. We couldn’t call ourselves a church if we didn’t take them in and the idea was to help them get back on their feet,” said Storey.

But Storey had no idea that five months later he would be left with half a million rand in damages to the church.

“The temptation is to get angry, which I have done, but then the only thing that happens is we become the thing we hate,” said Storey.

“The building has been spoilt, but we will renew it. But the brokenness of the building is a revealing of the brokenness of the people who occupied it.”

The church will continue to be closed during the Covid-19 lockdown and no online service will be held over Easter. 

The door of the church was broken by police last week after the refugees locked themselves inside.
The door of the church was broken by police last week after the refugees locked themselves inside.
Image: Supplied

“We rely on donations and will hope for the kindness from people, but we know we are dealing with Covid-19 and there are many people in need,” said Storey.

“We will be patient until the time is right.”

The refugees are currently residing in a large tent in Bellville. Children were playing in an open field outside the tent when TimesLIVE visited the site. Portiloos lined the side of the tent and washed clothes were hanging from a fence.

Another group of refugees - who were removed in March from outside the church - were moved to Wingfield, near Goodwood, on Tuesday evening.

The refugees have been moved to the new sites due to their living areas not abiding by lockdown rules implemented by President Ramaphosa on March 23 due to the threat of the spread of Covid-19.


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