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Pretoria - A US citizen, one of 20 alleged members of a Congolese rebel group, and also the so-called president of the group, poses a threat to the Republic of South Africa and the life of Congolese President Joseph Kabila, the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court has heard.
The group, arrested last month, allegedly belong to a dissident group known as the Union of Nationalists for Renewal (UNR). They were allegedly planning to overthrow the DRC government by means of conventional warfare.
During their long bail application hearing - while under guard by heavily armed police officers - State prosecutor Shaun Abrahams said evidence against the 20 men clearly indicated that they intended to kill Kabila. The group was also not open to peace talks and negotiations with Kabila, he said.
An affidavit presented to court by Abrahams on Wednesday said accused number four, Kabuka Lugaba Adrian Kilele, told some of his co-accused at a meeting on February 4 that “democratic elections would be a futile exercise as one cannot negotiate with a man holding a gun”, and a “military takeover was the only option”.
The court heard that audio and video footage of all the meetings between various members of the group were obtained by two under-cover officers from the Priority Crime Investigation unit known as James Jansen and Joe Bresler. The names were pseudonyms used to protect their true identity.
Jansen and Bresler posed as disgruntled SANDF members who claimed they had advanced military experience.
The court heard that Kilele had taken the two men into his confidence and told them about the group’s plan to unseat Kabila as president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
He told them the group required large quantities of weapons and ammunition as well as specialised military training.
Kilele indicated that the group did not have the finance to obtain the weapons, but intended to pay for the services through mining concessions in the mineral-rich DRC. According to Kilele, the UNR has 7 000 to 9 000 rebels who are dissatisfied with the DRC leadership.
Jansen and Bresler agreed to assist the group with military training and indicated to Kilele that they were not “in it for charity but for real money”. Jansen was given a cellphone and an e-mail address.
E-mails sent by Kilele to Jansen included a map of the DRC, and photographs of rebel soldiers posing with AK-47s. Some of the accused were identified in the pictures, as was Etienne Kabila.
Etienne Kabila claims to be the biological son of former president Laurent Kabila, who was assassinated. He is also the alleged ringleader of the group and handed himself over to police in Bellville, Cape Town, two days after his 19 co-accused were arrested in Limpopo.
The e-mails also had an arms and ammunition “wish list”.
The court heard that Jansen and Bresler frequently met Kilele, Kabila and other accused between September 20 and February 5, when they were arrested.
The accused face charges of violating the Foreign Military Assistance Act for conduct that amounted to mercenary activity in South Africa. Alternatively, they face a charge of rendering military foreign assistance.
A third charge of conspiracy to commit murder was added last week after evidence was obtained that the group intended to kill Kabila. They have yet to plead.
In a recording obtained by police, an accused says Kabila should stand trial once the government has been overthrown, adding: “However, should a stray bullet hit him it would be fine.”
US citizen and accused number one James Kazongo asked Jansen and Bresler to accompany the group, after military training had been completed, to act as advisers. They were planning to pose as an anti-rhino-poaching unit while undergoing special military training on a Modimolle farm, the court heard.
Abrahams told the court that investigating officer Lieutenant-Colonel Noel Graham Zeeman had indicated the investigation would take about four months to complete.
Itemised billing, translations of recordings from French to English and final analysis of CCTV footage had yet to be provided, he said.
Gold samples, intended as proof of payment for services, had to be forensically tested and transcriptions of meetings between the accused, Jansen and Bresler had to be transcribed, he added.
Reasons why the State is opposing bail:
* The State has a strong case against the accused.
* The accused pose a threat to the Republic of South Africa as well as the DRC.
* It is clear from statements made by US citizen James Kazongo to the court during his first appearance that he does not intend to stay in South Africa and would go back to the US as soon as possible.
* Evidence shows that Kazongo came to South Africa with the intention to lead the UNR.
* The accused have stated categorically they are not interested in peace talks or negotiations with President Joseph Kabila.
* There is a likelihood that they would endanger the safety of the South African public.
* There is a likelihood that the accused would commit schedule one offences if out on bail.
* The accused would undermine the proper functioning of the justice system.
* The accused would disappear untraced into the Congolese community with the help of the community.