Bail for Congo immigrants singled out by 'King Zombie'

Seventeen of the 20 Congolese nationals detained almost two weeks ago for alleged public violence in Johannesburg were released on R2 000 bail each on Wednesday morning.

They had apparently been singled out by Fabrice “King Zombie” Shungu, reputed to be an ally of embattled DRC leader, Joseph Kabila.

Magistrate Simon Radasi, in his judgment, was critical of the state’s evidence in opposing bail. He noted that the investigating officer, Lt Colonel Moses Raphalo, “clearly did not show that there would be extreme violence” if the men were released on bail.

The state had opposed bail on the grounds that there would be a public outcry against the release of the men as the alleged political violence would intensify, and the largely Congolese community in Yeoville would be threatened. Prosecutor Penny Pillay also argued their release would lead to the intimidation of witnesses, which would affect the administration of justice.

But Radasi was unconvinced by the state’s argument, noting that “the court cannot grope in the dark and speculate that something like this could happen without definite facts that something like this [an outbreak of violence or intimidation] could happen without definite facts”.

Three of the 20 were retained in custody, however, as two did not possess proper asylum seeker documents, while the third had alleged that his had been torn up while in police custody.

All of those arrested had initially been picked up in a police swoop of Yeoville two weeks ago.
Police at the time had told media that they were searching for illegal immigrants and confirmed that around 150 individuals had been arrested.

It later transpired that the Congo nationals had been rounded up for an identity parade, where the controversial Fabrice “King Zombie” Shungu had singled out various individuals involved in cases that he himself had opened, with allegations ranging from kidnapping, malicious damage to property, and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm to public violence.

Shungu is alleged by members of the mainly anti-Kabila Yeoville community to be a strongman for Kabila, who was reinstated as president following a November election result widely considered to be fraudulent.

Community members claim that Shungu has been orchestrating attempts to quell protests against the November election results that have taken place in Yeoville—as well as other cities in South Africa, Europe and North America.

During hearings on Tuesday, hundreds of Congolese nationals gathered outside the regional court in Johannesburg in support of those arrested. There were scenes of joy on Wednesday after Radasi delivered his judgment.

The matter was adjourned until February 14.

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi is a freelance journalist.His areas of interest include social justice; citizen mobilisation and state violence; protest; the constitution and the constitutional court and football. Read more from Niren Tolsi

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