A group of refugees sheltered in Cape Town’s Central Methodist Mission began packing their bags on Saturday in final preparation to leave Cape Town and embark on a perilous walk to Namibia.
The journey to the border on foot, would take an average of 135 hours or just over five-and-a-half days.
On Friday, the group was involved in a heated exchange with religious leaders, NGO’s and the SA Human Rights Commission (SARHRC)
According to community leader for the displaced people, Jean-Pierre Balous, a Congolese pastor joined the delegation and addressed the crowd who took issue with this because the man was not well respected in their community.
Things turned ugly, bottles were thrown at the delegation as the group of disgruntled refugees surged towards the group of men addressing them.
SAHRC’s Chris Nissen and Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba sustained blows to the head when plastic bottles were flung from the crowd.
Rev Alan Storey, of the Central Methodist Mission, reiterated his plea that people leave the church and find a more suitable place of safety – which the refugees believe lies beyond the borders of a “xenophobic” South Africa.
Balous said he saw no reason why local officials won’t open the border gates for them when they get there to allow them free passage to Namibia.
The Namibian consul-general in Cape Town, Nicklaas Kandjii, heard of these bold plans to cross the border via TV news reports.
The consulate is expected to contact its ministry in Namibia and discuss the way forward this week.
Questioned about the safety of the group and the many children who would be travelling with them, Balous said it was not an issue for them.
“We are going to walk.
“If it is going to take a month of us walking, so let it be,” he said.
By late on Saturday, the group appeared to be thinning out as some families had already left the Central Methodist Church either on foot or by car.