Rebels' supporters swell outside SA court

2013-02-14 13:50
Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila. (File, AFP)

Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila. (File, AFP)

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Pretoria - Security guards at the Pretoria Magistrate's Court had their hands full on Thursday before the appearance of 20 suspected Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) coup plotters.

They tried to limit the number of people attending proceedings.

The group's number of supporters started swelling outside Court 16, where the 20 men were set to appear on Thursday morning.

A security guard told the more than 60 supporters there was not enough room for all of them in court. The guard said only 15 would be allowed in.

Swearing and shouting followed.

"Your President [Jacob] Zuma has mining interests in the DRC, that is why you want to portray us as rebels to please [DRC President Joseph] Kabila," a woman shouted.

One of those trying to get into the court, Phillip Kaja from Lubumbashi, said his brother was one of the arrested men.

"How can they deny us access to hear the fate of our people? The arrested men are not rebels, unlike what your [South African] government wants the world to believe," he said.

Armed members of the police’s tactical response team arrived at the scene and escorted the group out of the court into the adjacent Francis Baard Street.

Bail applications

The supporters sang and chanted slogans in native DRC languages, including Lingala, Tchiluba, and Kikongo. Some waved flags and brandished placards.

Some of the placards read: "You [South Africa] are friends with Joseph Kabila because of gold and diamonds" and "Change your foreign policy".

The 20 men are accused of preparing to receive military training to topple Kabila.

Prosecutor Shaun Abrahams previously told the court the men were members of Nationalists for the Renewal of the DRC.

The plot's alleged ring-leader Etienne Kabila Taratibu, was arrested in Cape Town on 8 February. His 19 co-accused were arrested during a pre-dawn raid in Limpopo.

Kabila Taratibu claimed to be Kabila’s half-brother.

The matter was postponed to 27 February to give all the accused an opportunity to make formal bail applications.

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