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Ray of Hope as Zimbabwean Refugees Prepare to Leave SA Church

FILE: Zimbabwean refugees who have fled political violence and economic woes in Zimbabwe at the central Methodist church in Johannesburg.

Zimbabweans facing eviction at the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg, South Africa, say there is a ray of hope in getting alternative accommodation following some offers made by different organizations.

Indications are that Bishop Paul Verryn, who has been taking care of refugees including hundreds of Zimbabweans, has reviewed some offers from Bloemfontein, Welkom and Potchefstroom and a community centre in south western townships or Soweto.

Al-jazeera reported that a non-governmental organisation, Sector 27, supported by civil society organisations, has called on the South African government to assist the evicted refugees.

Studio 7 failed to reach Bishop Veryn as his mobile was not reachable. A local human rights activist has filed an urgent court application to block the eviction of refugees from the Methodist Church.

Noel Muguti, who is still at the church, said they were told that the place should be free of the refugees Sunday.

Meanwhile, South African Home Affairs authorities say they will next week release the final figures of applicants, who were processed under the Zimbabwe special permit program, which ended on New Year ’s Eve.

Nearly 208,000 permit applications have been processed and 38,000 and former permit holders now face deportation if they did not meet the deadline.

South African Home Affairs Minister, Malusi Gigaba, told journalists Wednesday that those that did not apply for permits, may have left the country, while others could have regularized their stay in the country through other means, and some simply have failed to apply.

Gigaba said those who failed to regularize their stay face deportation.

This phase of the Zimbabwe special permit programme announced in august will extend and regularise permit holders’ stay in South Africa until 2017.