By Gael Masengi
20 Congolese alleged coup-plotters arrested back in early February of this year will remain in South African jail said a judge this past Friday afternoon at Pretoria’s Magistrate Court.
Emotions ran high inside the court room as Magistrate Solomon Mkubela delivered his ruling against the defendants, he argued that the counsel for the accused could not prove his clients are not a “flight risk” let alone they wouldn’t be a threat to the lives of Congolese political authorities, include Joseph Kabila, if granted bail. The magistrate again said, the suspects could easily leave South Africa with help from Congolese community, and also noted that none of the accused has a permanent residence in South Africa, something which he believed can make their escape from the country possible, therefore he ordered the “suspects” to remain in custody until the beginning of their trial on May 23rd.
The men are accused of plotting to overthrow the controversial regime of Joseph Kabila and physically eliminate him and his aides, 19 suspects were arrested by a special division of the South African police in the early hours of February the 6th while en route to the northern province of Limpopo where the prosecutor alleged that a “training camp” was set-up by a team of undercover police officers who pretended to be retired members of S.A elite commando-turn mercenaries. Belonging to an unheard organization called the “Union of Nationalists for Renewal”, the men allegedly sent a “wish list” asking for machine guns, radio, grenades and even surface-to-air missiles and arranged for a training camp, prosecutor Shaun Abrahams told magistrate judge at previous court hearing. Accused to be the “ring leader”, an astonished Etienne Taratibu Kabila, eldest son of assassinated President Laurent D. Kabila eventually turned himself-in at Bellevue police station, Cape Town.
Saddened by the outcome of bail hearing, spouses of the “suspects” broke in tears as they were making their way out of the court with a remarkable dissatisfied crowd of supporters who are convinced that it’s a ‘clear political decision’ not a legal one. They unanimously accuse President Jacob Zuma –closest ally of Joseph Kabila – of “deeply” interfering on the judge’s decision, alleging that the Zuma administration will do anything to secure its interests in the DR. Congo by satisfying a class of Congolese political elites and overlooking the will of people, a thought many analysts of the Great Lake region seem to favor.
“This is a political decision, period!” said a fuming James Kamanda “We’ve seen Oscar Pistorious shot and killed his girlfriend and he got bail, why does it have to be different with the people who didn’t commit the act of killing neither attempt?”
The magistrate has however insisted that his decision was not finale; the accused can launch an appeal if they wish in a higher court while waiting for the trial date.