Refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) took to the streets in Johannesburg last Thursday to voice their frustrations over being mistreated by the justice system. They complained about being sent back and forth by the courts and the Sheriff’s Office, while complaining about a financial scam allegedly committed by one of their own.
They say Daniel Kalombo, an established engineer and South African citizen, stole R400 000 from them. The whole dilemma started in 2008 when Kalombo convinced the refugees to help him raise funds to build apartments for them as a community.
“It’s been over 5-years now and he has gone AWOL on us and has denied ever being affiliated with the community and our claims. The case has been pending since 2010. All the courts do is delay the matter and send us to another court”, says Alelette Mokudi (19), one of the protesters on Juta Street, Braamfontein. The refugees say Kalombo was a member of their church and seemingly convinced them to come together to pool money for the apartments. They trusted Kalombo because he has a South African ID.
.“Kalombo crooked us just because he is a South African citizen; we are completely disregarded by the law and the bank. The issue no longer becomes about how we were violated but rather how we are refugees and that we can’t prove anything even though we have eligible documents”, said Meda Mokola (29), a mother of three children who has been living in South Africa for over 10-years and still has no citizenship. In her attempts to get an ID, she says Home Affairs will only give her three month permits, which she has been extending since her arrival.
These people came as a Congolese community to protest with placards in front of the Johannesburg Sheriff’s Offices. They are looking for any form of resolution to get their hard-earned money back and move forward with their lives.
“This matter will take a long while to resolve, due to the fact that we are foreigners. The law of South Africa is not fair,” said David Mande, one of the protesters. Amongst this group of people were mothers, students and even children. It didn’t seem that the Sheriff’s Office was taking them seriously; one officer laughed at the group as he arrived for work.Foreigners often complain about poor treatment in South Africa. This case, it seems, is another example where they have been alienated by the justice system.