By Colleta Dewa
Johannesburg - Political analysts in South Africa have urged the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to urgently address the matter of the DRC opposition leader Moise Katumbi saying the issue is a ticking bomb whose explosion might cause worse instability in the volatile Southern African country.
The analysis comes following the march by Katumbi’s supporters in South Africa on Monday.
The supporters marched to Luthuli House demanding that the ANC intervene and allow their leader to contest in the DRC elections scheduled for December this year.
However, according to the DRC constitution, participants were supposed to have filled their candidacy papers by August 8.
Speaking to The Southern Times, political analyst Gelly Musindo said unresolved issues are the source of future destabilisation.
“This issue has already proved to be a cause for attention. DRC needs a permanent solution to its political unrest. The Katumbi issue should not be ignored at all. I really think SADC should do something about the matter. It is unfortunate the supporters here are demanding a solution from the ANC but I think it requires a collective approach beyond a certain political party,” she said.
Katumbi, who is former governor of the DRC’s mineral-rich Katanga province, was barred from entering the country to lodge his papers for participating in the elections.
His supports in South Africa said they want the ANC to intervene and persuade outgoing President Joseph Kabila to allow Katumbi to return home and contest in the elections.
They were also demanding that SA President Cyril Ramaphosa should block Kabila from interfering with the electoral process.
One of the supporters who spoke to The Southern Times said they had pinned their hope on the ANC since they believed that president Ramaphosa was the one who managed to convince Kabila to step down.
“It is the ANC president, who urged Kabila to cease power, so we are now asking him to again put pressure on him so that he allows our leader to exercise his constitutional right and contest the elections. As supporters of Katumbi, we are grateful to South Africa for its efforts in ensuring peace in DRC by appointing Thabo Mbeki as an envoy to monitor the elections,” he said.
Earlier this month, Katumbi was quoted in a tweet castigating Kabila’s government for denying him entry into the country.
"The regime prohibits my landing and barricades the border ... My crime? Wanting to enter my country and lodge my candidacy," he said.
The DRC government last week issued an international arrest warrant for Katumbi, who has been in exile since 2016.
Munya Bonjo, a political analyst, said the move by the government to deny Katumbi access to his country was a great threat to democracy and a test to the regional bloc.
“Tension is going to escalate in the DRC. I am of the view that Katumbi’s supports, who marched today, have a strong case. SADC should not let such abuse of power and threats to stability go on.
Today it is DRC but we never know who will be next.
“It is also ironic that the opposition supporters staged their march just a day after the SADC was sitting in Namibia. I really wish they could have helped knock sense into one of theirs, Kabila to allow fairness to prevail in this case. Remember DRC is a threat to regional security. Every SADC country is affected when one is one fire,” he said.
Katumbi was convicted in absentia in 2016 for alleged real estate fraud as well as accusations of hiring mercenaries and possessing dual nationality.
He denied all the charges saying they were aimed at frustrating his efforts for partaking in the election.
Efforts by The Southern Times to get a comment from the DRC Ambassador in Pretoria were fruitless, as his office said he was out of town.
Bemba supports Katumbi
Another opposition leader in the DRC, who is also a former vice president and former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba and has been in exile for 11 years, said the Katumbi situation was unfortunate.
Bemba was allowed to launch his bid for presidency and he is back in the DRC.
Earlier he told journalists that he wished authorities had found a solution to the Katumbi issue.
"I feel very sorry for Mr Katumbi, who they don't allow to come back to his own country. Everybody should be able to participate in the election. Exclusion is not good for the country and for the unity of the country," he said.
In June, the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Netherlands, overturned a war crimes conviction against Bemba.
The ICC ruled that he could not be held responsible for atrocities carried out by troops under his control in the neighbouring Central African Republic.
He urged opposition parties to field a single presidential candidate.
"We have to be united because as you know we have just one run of the elections. If we want to win and bring new change in Congo, we need to be one," he said.
Speaking to The Southern Times regarding the ICC, Dr Godard Tshuma said the ICC has flaws that are slowly being exposed.
“I have my own reservations when it comes to the ICC.
It seems to me that the organisation was set to intimidate weaker members. To cut the story short, what did the ICC do regarding the US-Iraq confrontation?” he asked.