Pretoria - An undercover police colonel who infiltrated a group of rebels allegedly plotting to overthrow Democratic Republic of the Congo President Joseph Kabila's government started testifying in the group's trial in the High Court in Pretoria on Monday.
This was after the 20 alleged coup plotters lost a series of applications aimed at getting the charges against them dropped.
The applications included one to declare the SA Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act unconstitutional, and another to have the South African Director of Public Prosecutions' authorisation of the police trap which led to their arrest declared unlawful.
The 20 DRC citizens have all pleaded not guilty to a charge of contravening the Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act by engaging in mercenary activity or rendering foreign military assistance without authorisation.
They also pleaded not guilty to contravening the local Riotous Assemblies Act by conspiring to murder President Kabila and 15 top members of his government.
The group's alleged leader, Etienne Kabila, claims to be the real son of the late DRC president Laurent Kabila and that Joseph, who succeeded his father, is an “imposter”.
He claimed in his plea explanation he had been entrapped by promises of a meeting with a sponsor who could provide him with money to return the DRC.
He said he had withdrawn after one of the men demanded US7000 per person he wanted to receive military training.
An undercover lieutenant colonel of the police's Anti-Terrorism unit testified that he and a fellow operative had become involved in the investigation after being contacted by the investigating officer Col Noel Zeeman of the Hawks.
The lieutenant-colonel may not be identified in terms of an order by Judge Billy Mothle.
They arranged a meeting with an informer who told them there was a group of people looking for mercenaries to assist them with a coup in the DRC and introduced them to two of the accused, Lunula Masikini and Kabuka Kilele, who was referred to as the secretary.
Kilele told them they had to get control over the mineral-rich Bukavu and Goma regions in the DRC, but their ultimate goal was to get rid of President Joseph Kabila.
He said they needed money, weapons and military training and promised to pay them with mining rights.
The two operatives posed as disgruntled members of the SANDF with extensive knowledge of mercenary activities in Africa and the Middle East who could provide the group with weapons and training in South Africa.
The colonel and Kilele exchanged numerous emails and text messages and arranged a number of meetings between the operatives and members of the group.
In one of his first emails, Kilele sent a map of the mining zones he said they could “take easily” and photos of “our military in the bush”, including one of Etienne Kabila in camouflage clothing.
Kilele also sent him a French “need list” of what the group required. The list had a stamp of the rebel group, Union of Nationalists for Renewal, on it.
The list included US120 000, satellite phones, hand radios, 5000 AK47 assault rifles, grenades, different types of machine guns, rocket propelled grenades, ground-to-ground and ground-to-air missiles and 100 revolvers.