SA denies claims of involvement in coup

Claims that two South Africans—one working for the country’s embassy in Bujumbura and the other an intelligence agent from Pretoria—have been involved in concocting a fake coup in Burundi resurfaced this week.

Fifteen opposition leaders, including a former vice-president and army officials, were accused at the end of last month of plotting a coup against Pierre Nkurunziza’s almost year-old Burundian government.

Only eight men were arrested and are still in detention amid continuing allegations by human rights groups of torture.

Well-placed sources this week maintained that the South African agents worked with Burundi’s internal intelligence agency to organise what they called a “fake” coup.

An analyst at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, Jan van Eck, who has been deeply involved as a peace broker in the tiny central African state, told the Mail & Guardian that it is “critically important for South Africa’s record in the rest of Africa and its role as a peacemaker in Africa for this allegation to be proven wrong”.

One of the men who was initially arrested, but later released, Alexis Sinduhije, respected journalist and owner of an independent radio station, Radio Publique Africaine (RPA), also confirmed the allegations about the two South African agents.

Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa this week said the department was not investigating allegations of South African involvement and denied being aware of any such allegations. “We have not received any such complaints. Therefore your questions are not valid.”

Van Eck has called the coup allegations, made by Burundi’s ruling National Council for Defence of Democracy and Force for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), “bizarre”.

“If I look at the politicians who were arrested it is very unlikely that people with diverse political views should plot together,” he said. “The evidence has to be shown surrounding the people arrested, it must be produced urgently to prevent growing speculation that this is an attempt to crush the opposition.”

Sinduhije said he believed that CNDD-FDD party leader Hussein Radjabu was the “mastermind” behind the “false” coup plot. He concurred with Van Eck, saying its aim was to silence the opposition to cover up large-scale government corruption.

Sinduhije explained his presence on the list of coup plotters as being a result of his radio station exposing government corruption and human rights abuse. He further claimed that Radjabu had boasted that South African agents “have a deal with him to help him gather intelligence and assist him in all strategic intelligence”.

Radjabu could not be reached for comment.

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