DRC/SA Talks: Zuma happy with ‘technical delay’ in DRC poll

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    Kabila was supposed to have stood down last
    December at the end of his constitutionally-limited two terms
    in office. But he did not do so claiming elections for a
    successor could not be held as the voters roll was out of
    date.

    This provoked violent political protests,
    prompting the Catholic Church to broker the “St Sylvestre” deal
    between the government and opposition at the end of the year to
    hold elections and conclude Kabila’s tenure sometime this
    year.

    But that deadline has now also clearly receded
    into the indefinite future, sparking fears of new violence.
    However at Sunday’s meeting of the SA-DRC Binational
    Commission, Zuma accepted Kabila’s explanation that
    technically, elections could not be held this year, officials
    from both sides said.

    In his opening remarks Zuma congratulated
    Kabila for the progress he had made so far in implementing the
    St Sylvestre agreement, adding that “the DRC is now politically
    stable and the security situation has improved” and offered
    SA’s continued solidarity and support.”

    Kabila’s chief adviser Barnabé
    Kikaya-bin-Karubi said Zuma’s advice to Kabila in the closed
    meeting was 
    “to hold elections as soon as possible so as to conclude the
    matter peacefully.”

    At the same time he said Zuma had accepted
    Kabila’s explanation that the logistics would not permit
    elections this year. He noted that the DRC electoral commission
    had estimated elections could be held at the soonest next April
    but even that was not certain. South African officials believe
    it will be even later.

    Bin-Karubi said so far the electoral
    commission had registered 29 million of the 45 million
    estimated voters. “By the end of July, hopefully, if we manage
    to stabilise the situation in the Kasais, we will be done with
    the registration of voters,” he added, referring to the recent
    explosion of violence in the Kasai West and Kasai East
    provinces after government security forces killed a local chief
    opposed to Kabila.

    However, even if the voter registration
    finished at the end of July, elections would still not be
    possible this year, he added.

    “There are various steps. Step number one is
    to clean up the voters roll. There could be people registered
    twice. When the registration started, there could be people who
    were up in the north of the country, and ended up in the
    Kinshasa area.”

    Cleaning the voters roll might take a month.
    Then Parliament would have to enact an electoral law to
    distribute the seats in Parliament according to the new
    roll.

    After that the electoral commission would call
    for candidates for Parliament and for President. Only then
    could the electoral commission start printing ballots, buying
    voting booths and so on. And this was a big challenge and he
    couldn’t say how long it would take

    He said Zuma’s advice to Kabila had been to
    hold elections as soon as possible so as to conclude the matter
    peacefully.

    But he added that “the South Africans are
    happy with the explanation we gave which was more technical
    than political.”

    A South African official said: “We were not
    necessarily satisfied but also I can’t say we were not
    satisfied. It does seem that logistically it might not be
    possible to hold elections this year for two main reasons.” The
    first was that DRC had decided to do a general voter
    registration and not just a registration of young new voters as
    originally intended. Also the violence in Kasai would make it
    dangerous to register voters there, especially as the security
    forces had been blamed for much of the killing.

    The other main reason for the delay was that
    the DRC said it needed US$1,6 billion to fund the elections –
    and it insisted on financing this itself, out of a total
    national budget of just US$4 billion. Bin-Karubi said the DRC
    government would have to cut spending in other areas like
    agriculture to find the money.

    Zuma and Kabila indicated in the joint
    communiqué that SA’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)
    would help DRC’s electoral commission with the election. South
    African officials said, if asked, the IEC would help DRC’s
    electoral commission to clean up the voters roll, but would not
    help with the voter registration – because “that’s not our
    business.”

    Kabila had another reason to be grateful to
    South Africa as it led the change to water down a probe by the
    UN Human Rights Council into the Kasai violence. The official
    confirmed that South Africa had insisted that the UN as well as
    the African Union should merely provide technical assistance to
    the DRC’s own internal investigation which was already under
    way.

    The joint communique from the BNC said both
    presidents had “expressed their satisfaction” with the
    successful conclusion of the political dialogue initiated by
    Kabila and which had led to the appointment of a Prime
    Minister, the establishment of a Government of National Unity
    and the strengthening of democracy, which would pave the way
    for the holding of elections in the DRC.

    Zuma had also expressed his satisfaction with
    Kabila’s progress in identifying a contractor to build the
    Grand Inga hydroelectric power plant on the Congo River which
    is supposed eventually to produce 40 000MW of electricity. On
    29 October 2013 SA and DRC signed an agreement that SA would
    buy 2 500MW of electricity from the first phase of the project,
    though thousands of kilometres of power lines would first have
    to be built to get it to South Africa.

    About ten members of the Congolese diaspora
    mounted a small protest at the gates to the Bryntirion
    government residential complex i
    n
    Pretoria where the BNC was taking place. They objected to Zuma
    hosting Kabila whom they said was an illegitimate
    leader. 
    DM

    Photo: President Jacob Zuma holding a
    tête-à-tête with President Joseph Kabila Kabange of the
    Democratic Republic of Congo during his official visit to South
    Africa on 25 June 2017 to attend the 10th session of the South
    Africa-Democratic Republic of Congo Bi-National Commission
    (BNC. (Photo: GCIS)

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