PRETORIA – President Jacob Zuma on Sunday congratulated Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Joseph Kabila on the relative stability and progress made in the vast central African nation.
“We gather here at a time when your country is going through a political transition following the December 2016 political agreement. This agreement charted a process that should lead to the next elections,” Zuma said in his opening remarks at the 10th session of the South Africa-DRC Bi-national Commission (BNC) in Pretoria.
“We congratulate you, Mr President, on the progress achieved thus far and the manner with which you have handled the process. The people of the DRC need to determine and decide their internal political future. The best way to do so is through negotiations and dialogue. The people of the DRC have proven in the past their ability to dialogue.”
Zuma said given the close and strong collaboration between Kinshasa and Pretoria, the South African authorities were pleased to welcome Kabila on his official visit on Sunday.
“We have used the BNC mechanism to identify critical areas of co-operation. The first decade of our BNC was largely consumed by efforts in assisting the DRC in areas of institutional capacity building,” Zuma said.
This included training the DRC national army, police, and diplomats; providing technical electoral support; and conducting the public service census.
“It is clear to us that we have made substantial progress over the years. The DRC of 2017 is different from that of 2004 when we started our collaboration within the context of the BNC. The DRC is now politically stable and the security situation has improved.
“Where there are still challenges, the government of the DRC, with the assistance of the region, continent, and international community, is addressing those. In this regard, we encourage you, Mr President, and your government to continue on this path,” he said.
Zuma urged parties in the DRC to commit to dialogue, even when they differed sharply. “We wish to reiterate that dialogue and not conflict is the best way to resolve problems. In this regard we wish to assure you of our continued solidarity and support,” he said.
Kabila’s official visit to South Africa was, however, marked by protests as scores of DRC nationals gathered at the main entrance of the Sefako Makgatho presidential guesthouse denouncing Kabila.
The protesters said the meeting between Zuma and Kabila was a non-event. “Our Constitution dictates that at the end of his second term Kabila must have vacated from power. An election must have happened, but he hasn’t made that election happen. He has no legitimacy to be called a president because we need free and fair elections to elect a leader of the DRC,” a protest leader Jean Bwasa said.
“When somebody is illegitimate and illegal, how do you recognise the deals and the trade bilateral deals that he is signing here? They are irrelevant. They are void and nullified. When we have a new, legitimate government, these deals will not be recognised by the people of Congo. Whatever they are signing today is their private business. It doesn’t concern the DRC,” he said.
“Joseph Kabila is not a legitimate president. He is actually a criminal. Why is South Africa wasting money, rolling for him the red carpet. We won’t allow him to go inside. You will have to arrest us first,” one of the protesters told a police officer manning the main entrance.
As cars drove past into the highly secured venue, the protesters continually shouted via a loudhailer “Kabila you are not welcome here. You are a murderer”. Others chanted “Kabila must fall”, while others shouted “Kabila son of a b***h”.
Several police officers manned the main entrance of the presidential guesthouse, vetting all people driving into the venue. Public order policing vehicles also arrived at the venue.
African News Agency