‘Chil­dren are hav­ing sex pub­licly in church shel­ter’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - THABISO THAKALI

THE BAT­TLE to jus­tify the need to close down the Cen­tral Methodist Church, which shelters thou­sands of refugees in cen­tral Joburg, took a dra­matic turn yes­ter­day with a mem­ber of the Gaut­eng pro­vin­cial leg­is­la­ture claim­ing she had seen mi­nors hav­ing sex there.

Siza­kele Nkosi-Malobane, chair­woman of the prov­ince’s safety and se­cu­rity com­mit­tee, shocked a meet­ing held to map a way for­ward by re­veal­ing she had seen “some kids hav­ing sex pub­licly in the church”.

This, she said hap­pened dur­ing unan­nounced and dis­guised vis­its where she fur­ther claimed she had been asked to pay R5 to gain ac­cess.

But Nkosi-Malobane could not tell yes­ter­day whether the in­ci­dent had been re­ported to po­lice or not. “There is so much crime that is hap­pen­ing in the church.

“Mem­bers of the church are also com­plain­ing be­cause they feel un­safe there.”

The meet­ing held in the pro­vin­cial leg­is­la­ture was part of a process started by the pro­vin­cial com­mit­tee on health and so­cial de­vel­op­ment a week ago to con­sider the pos­si­ble clo­sure of the refugee cen­tre.

NGOs, church rep­re­sen­ta­tives, politi­cians and child wel­fare or­gan­i­sa­tions bick­ered about who was to blame for the sit­u­a­tion at the church while gasps and mum­blings punc­tu­ated the pro­ceed­ings.

The church’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kim Alexan­der asked whether peo­ple thought “God cares more about a build­ing than peo­ple” as more ques­tions were raised about the ap­palling con- di­tions chil­dren were liv­ing in.

“The church is in­debted by over a mil­lion rand in wa­ter and elec­tric­ity bills. Where has ev­ery­body been for the past three years? South Africa has failed th­ese peo­ple.”

The church was also try­ing to get the City of Joburg’s by­law on loi­ter­ing de­clared il­le­gal as the law is used to tar­get refugees sleep­ing on the pave­ment out­side the church.

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