President Jacob Zuma has come under fire from Congolese government critics, who accuse him of taking a hands-off approach to the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s unconstitutional attempts to delay elections.
The critics said this was because of his family’s business interests in the DRC.
African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is also included in the jibes after she appointed former Togolese prime minister Edem Kodjo to mediate in a national dialogue to resolve disputes about the elections. Critics say this process supported DRC President Joseph Kabila’s attempts to extend his two terms beyond November, when he is supposed to step down.
They say the Constitution dictates that there should be elections by November and there was nothing to negotiate. Kabila has argued that an update to the voters’ roll was necessary, a process that would take the country to well beyond the elections date.
Government has also clamped down on opposition protests; on Thursday DRC opposition politician Moise Katumbi was effectively placed under house arrest – a day after announcing his intention to run for president.
The Kinshasa-based Le Potentiel newspaper this week slammed Dlamini-Zuma, saying she knew from the beginning that she had appointed Kodjo to a “mission impossible”. Kodjo is perceived to be biased towards Kabila, and so is Dlamini-Zuma.
Kodjo led an unsuccessful AU peace mission to Burundi last year.
“The accusation against the AU Commission chairperson is the fact that she works to favour the ruling party, to the detriment of the opposition,” the paper said.
It alleged that Dlamini-Zuma was “receiving instructions from Pretoria in exchange for benefits the DRC government give to the family of the South African President Jacob Zuma”.
In 2010 Zuma’s nephew, Khulubuse Zuma, fronted a R100-billion oil deal in the DRC, through a company that was registered in the British Virgin Islands in his name. The Panama Papers leak confirmed this and also revealed that the United States authorities were investigating the deal.
The paper said the deal took place in “obscure conditions”, and alleged there were other deals with the energy sector in South Africa “that smells of big favours on a political and diplomatic level”.
A Congolese opposition supporter living in Johannesburg, who didn’t want to be named for fear of reprisal, said many Congolese expats felt Zuma didn’t care about the situation in the DRC.
“We would like to tell him to quit the DRC, because he is using the Congo for his private business,” he said. “We want South Africa to deal legitimately with the Congo, state to state, not individuals taking advantage for their private interests.”
Dlamini-Zuma’s spokesperson Jacob Enoh did not react to a request for comment on Friday morning, and neither has Zuma’s spokesperson, Bongani Majola.
The department of International Relations’ head of public diplomacy, Clayson Monyela, did not respond to a query on South Africa’s position on the situation in the DRC. This is despite numerous messages sent to him over the past few days, as well as a phone call.
The US Department of State last week expressed concern over the government’s “arrest and intimidation of Congolese citizens participating in and preparing for peaceful political activity in Kinshasa and Haut Katanga Province the weekend of April 24.”
It said the DRC government was obliged to respect citizens’ human rights with respect to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.
“Repression destroys the trust and confidence of the very citizens who are needed for any credible dialogue among all Congolese stakeholders,” it said.
The United Nations in March passed a resolution saying a peaceful and credible electoral cycle in accordance with the Constitution was necessary to stabilise the DRC in the long term. In 2003, South Africa helped mediate the process that led to a peace agreement in the DRC’s civil war. Three years later it helped the country hold its first democratic elections in more than four decades, which saw Kabila elected to power.
South Africa provided logistical support in the country’s 2011 elections, which included printing ballot papers. DRC opposition supporters marched to the ANC’s Luthuli House headquarters in Johannesburg that year because they said there were election irregularities.
The DRC’s current elections problems are expected to feature high on the agenda of the AU summit in Rwanda in July.