Arts | Politics | Economy | Education & Sciences24 Nov 2017
artikelfotoZimbabwe, South Africa
A Zimbabwean refugee camp in a downtown Jo'burg church
Politics, 24 Mar. 2009 - redactie Africaserver Magazine
Some of the few hundred kids who stay overnight (photo: Bob Meijs)

Three weeks ago I visited the Methodist Church of Southern Africa in downtown Johannesburg. Bishop Paul Verryn opened this church a few years ago to accommodate the thousands of Zimbabwean refugees who came to South Africa for work, food, aid and a descent life. During the night the church complex is packed with more than 1800 refugees, while over 1000 others have to sleep on the streets around the building.
Each day, still more Zimbabweans find their way to hope. At the same time I visited the church, a huge party was organized for Robert Mugabe's 85th birthday at which thousands and thousands bottles of champagne and whisky found their way to the gready mouthes of the well-to-do in Zimbabwe.
"Today we're expecting another 180 Zimbabwean refugees coming over from bordertown Messina" Methodist bishop Paul Verryn told us. A week later that number had risen to more than 1000. The packed complex of the church in downtown Johannesburg looks like a Red Cross refugee camp somewehere in Africa. People here have hardly any room, any privacy.

Get the Flash Player to see this player.
click on movie to start

Young families with small babies huddle together in an underground room with no windows. Four square meters for their belongings, and for a stove on which some food is prepared. In another similar room only women are allowed to stay. Here too, no windows, almost no ventilation - the temperature must be around 40 degrees. In yet another room kids flock together in front of a tiny television. Over 175 kids without parents have come to this safe haven in South Africa.

Bishop Paul Verryn and his church are doing an impossible job, taking care of so many Zimbabwean refugees who flee to South Africa. Although MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai is now Zimbabwe's prime minister in a government with Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF, the economic situation in their home country has not improved so far.

And what support can Zimbabwean refugees expect from South African national and local government and other institutions?

The national government is closing down refugee camps in other parts of South Africa. Gauteng´s provincial minister of local government condemns what Paul Verryn is doing. However, her words are not followed by any action to bring relief to the refugees. On the other hand, the city of Johannesburg is fully aware of the situation and is seeking alternatives.

And what about support by other churches in South Africa?
Paul Verryn: `The Pentecostal Church offered to provide bible lessons to some hundred refugees. So, then I suggested that if they would take full care (housing, food, other support, etcetera) for these hundred refugees, I would not mind to have them giving bible lessons too. Unfortunately, my suggestion was not granted.´
Azim Koning
Azim Koning is editor at the Africaserver Magazine.
He is also chairman of the Afrovibes Foundation (click here for the Afrovibes website).

In the column to the right you will find some articles and other news on the situation in and around the church.

After battling in court, Bishop Paul Verryn and the Methodist Church and Gauteng Minister Qedani Mahlangu have agreed on a solution for the approx. 4000 refugees in and around the church. The minister has stated yesterday that the Gauteng government found suitable accommodation to house the displaced refugees. Within two weeks, the refugees will be temporarily accommodated in four camps in and around Johannesburg.
Check the latest news links !!

<< to Magazine

more images for
A Zimbabwean refugee camp in a downtown Jo'burg church: fotofotofotofoto
More in Politics:
Surprising Europe is Surprising Audiences
The first day of filming in Amsterdam,...

Wangari Maathai: "Nobody knows everything, you only learn by making mistakes"
In the 1970s, biologist Dr. Wangari...

"Peace is not an event, it's a process" - Interview with Liberian woman peace activist Etwede Cooper
Late 2003 saw the end of the brutal...

More in Zimbabwe:
The Great Escape - Interview with Denton Chikura and Tonderai Munyebvu
Late May and early June, two Zimbabwean actors, Denton Chikura and Tonderai...

More in South Africa:
Art and the hell of the African underworld at Holland Festival - Interview with Brett Bailey
For the past 14 years, the South African director Brett Bailey and his company...

Thesis on Sexual Violence Against Lesbian Women in South Africa
South Africa was the first state worldwide that placed sexual orientation under...

Making Cinema in South Africa - Interview with Five Young Film Makers
From November 7 until 11 this year, the Cinema South Africa festival took place...

Currently in the magazine:
Magisch Afrika - maskers en beelden uit Ivoorkust
Magisch Afrika, een schitterende...

Julidans - South African choreographer and dance company from Senegal
"At the same time we were pointing a...

Coup Fatal- uitbundige muziektheatrale ode aan de ‘sapeurs’ van Kinshasa (Congo)
Van 16 t/m 18 juni presenteert het...

Manecas Costa - alsnog in Nederland - win vrijkaarten
Manecas Costa, zanger, componist en...

Online expositie Afrika-foto's Frits Eisenloeffel
Sinds begin februari 2014 staat op de...

Auteur Helon Habila over Olie op water - korting voor bezoekers Africaserver
Op woensdag 19 februari komt de...

Sites for this article:
VPRO - Van Dis in Afrika (2008) - Vluchtelingen uit Zimbabwe

Dion Forster - A documentary on Bishop Paul Verryn and the Methodist Church of SA's role in working against Apartheid

Mail & Guardian - Where Zim's shifting flock comes to rest

Mail & Guardian - 'Special deal on cards for Zim refugees in SA'

Mail & Guardian - ‘Jo'burg church no place for Zim refugees’

Mail & Guardian - Refugees return to raided church amid legal wrangles

SABCNews - MDC "shell shocked" by Gauteng MEC's attack on Methodist Bishop

Mail & Guardian - Bishop condemns raid on refugees

Mail & Guardian - Zim refugees wait for asylum on Jo'burg streets

City of Johannesburg - City plans to deal with refugees

Reliefweb - Zimbabwe: More refugees crowd into South African church

UMCOR / United Methodist Committee on Relief

Zimbabwe Times - Refugees to be moved from church

SABC News - Hope for Methodist Chruch refugees

Reliefweb - Zimbabwe: SA authorities offer temporary shelter for refugees - Church refugees to be housed, MEC promises

Paul Verryn: Refugee Ministries Centre has come a long way

Paul Verryn: Refugee Ministries Centre has come a long way

hyperlinks index Africaserver

Politics and Society
hyperlinks index Africaserver

Human Rights
hyperlinks index Africaserver

South Africa
hyperlinks index Africaserver

hyperlinks index Africaserver

Processed by Apache Cocoon 2.1.7 in 108 milliseconds.