A prophet not in his own land: DRC’s Mukungubila in SA, just where Kabila wants him

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    South African President Jacob Zuma is way too
    sympathetic to his fellow-president’s anxieties, Paul-Joseph
    Mukungubila’s people say.

    In his home country, DRC, Mukungubila founded
    the “The Ministry of Restoration of Black Africa”, a rather
    extravagant, revivalist movement, in 1977 and which preached a
    mixture of religion and politics.

    He also dabbled in regular politics. In 2006
    he stood against Kabila in the presidential elections. But he
    was just one of 32 also-rans who didn’t make it to the second
    round and no one paid much attention to
    him.

    Until 08.30 on Monday 30 December, 2013 when
    astonished viewers of Le Panier (the Breadbasket) a TV
    show on DRC’s national broadcaster RTNC, watched a group of
    youths armed with pangas and sticks storm the studio in the
    capital Kinshasa during a live
    transmission.

    Le Panier’s two presenters were taken
    hostage by the men shouting orders in the local Lingala
    language “and at one stage, a vuvuzela incongruously appeared
    on the set”, France 24 reported. A voice off-camera proclaimed
    in Lingala, “Gideon Mukungubila has come to free you from the
    slavery of the Rwandan”, the report continued. Then the signal
    was abruptly cut.

    Gideon” is another of
    Mukungubila’s first names. “The Rwandan” referred to President
    Joseph Kabila. Mukungubila claims that Kabila is not a
    Congolese but is in fact really a Rwandan, his South African
    spokesman Charlie Mingiedi
    explains.

    He’s also not the son, as he claims, of the
    late President Laurent Kabila, whom he succeeded when he was
    assassinated in 2001.

    As proof Mingiedi shows a photograph, on his
    phone, taken some time in the mid-1990s of Joseph Kabila
    supposedly wearing a Rwandan army uniform when he was one of
    the Rwandan defence minister’s guards.

    These allegations about Joseph Kabila’s
    ancestry are familiar and date back to the decisive military
    support Rwanda gave to Laurent Kabila to topple the long-time
    kleptocratic dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997. A year later
    Kabila senior expelled his Rwandan advisers because they were
    being too bossy, provoking a war with Rwanda – which sucked in
    several other African armies – and permanent tensions and
    occasional clashes between the two countries. So Mukungubila is
    rather out on a political limb when he insists that Joseph
    Kabila is still today a front man for Rwandan President Paul
    Kagame and has allowed the Rwandans effectively to take over
    the running of DRC.

    His protests/attempted coup on December 30,
    2013 was provoked by Kabila’s recent signing of a peace deal
    with the M23 rebels in the east of the country who had been
    backed by Kigali.

    The invasion of the RTNC studio on December
    30 triggered fierce gun-battles involving the government army,
    police and presidential guard first there and then soon after
    near Kinshasa’s Ndjili national airport and an army base, in
    Mukungubila’s hometown of Lubumbashi in Katanga province and in
    the towns of Kindu, Kisangani and Kolwezi to the south and
    east.

    The government later that day announced that
    several strategic sites had been attacked but the army was
    restoring control. It eventually announced a death toll of 103,
    eight of them government soldiers and many more injured and
    arrested.

    Mingiedi insists that the deaths were purely
    the result of the government’s brutal suppression of what he
    claims were peaceful protests after soldiers attacked
    Mukungubila’s Lubumbashi home. Others suggest instead this was
    a foiled coup.

    Mukungubila fled to South Africa a week
    later, with five of his 18 wives, and 12 of his 19 children,
    according to South African court records. On March 5, 2014 he
    applied for asylum. On June 30 the Refugee Status Determination
    Officer rejected his application. He appealed to the Refugee
    Appeal Board (RAB) which dismissed his appeal on August
    21.

    Meanwhile, according to the North Gauteng
    High Court, on May 5, 2014 the Minister of Justice issued a
    notice that Mukungubila should be extradited to the DRC which
    had asked Pretoria to send him back to face charges of murder,
    “international aggravated assault”, malicious destruction and
    “arbitrary and illegal detention.”

    This was clearly also the understanding of
    the Department of Home Affairs which repeated this account in a
    statement on April 18 this year.

    But deputy minister of Justice John Jeffery
    told Daily Maverick this week that this was wrong. He
    said his government had not yet made a decision to extradite
    Mukungubila and that the minister had merely initiated an
    administrative inquiry by a magistrate to determine if he
    should be extradited, as required by law.

    He was duly arrested on May 15, pending the
    outcome of this inquiry.

    Mukungubila then launched two legal
    challenges, one in the South Gauteng (Johannesburg) High Court
    for the suspension of the extradition proceedings and another
    in the North Gauteng (Pretoria) High Court, asking the court to
    overturn the RAB’s decision not to grant him
    asylum.

    On 13 March this year, the South Gauteng High
    Court ordered that the government should suspend extradition
    proceedings again Mukungubila, pending finalisation of his
    asylum application.

    And on March 30 the North Gauteng High Court
    issued a scathing judgment which blasted the RAB and the
    Minister and Department of Home Affairs for incompetence – and
    possibly bias – and granted Mukungubila
    asylum.

    In his judgment Judge MJ Mululeke appeared to
    endorse Mukungubila’s claim that the executive arm of
    government – through the minister and department of Home
    Affairs – had unlawfully interfered in the decision of RAB,
    which is supposed to be objective and independent body, in a
    co-ordinated effort “to work together to achieve the refusal of
    asylum and the ultimate deportation and extradition” of
    Mukungubila.

    Judge Mululeke said it was “clear from the
    evidence that all kinds of tactics and stumbling blocks have
    been deployed at every possible avenue that the Applicant
    (Mukungubila) explored to enforce and protect his
    rights”.

    The judge added that neither the RAB nor the
    minister or department of Home Affairs had offered the court
    any evidence to refute Mukungubila’s claim that he would be
    persecuted by the DRC government if he was
    extradited.

    On the basis of these circumstances he took
    what he called was the “exceptional” decision to grant
    Mukungubila asylum himself, rather than refer the back to the
    RAB, suggesting this was because the board was so biased that
    referring it back would produce a “foregone
    conclusion”.

    Mingiedi hailed Judge Mululeke’s decision to
    grant his boss asylum, saying, “It is a relief. He can now once
    again involve himself in political life.”

    But the Department of Home Affairs has
    applied for leave to appeal the decisions of both courts, so
    Mukungubila remains stuck in South Africa, his travel documents
    impounded, unable to travel to other countries to canvas
    support from other Congolese diasporas as he wants to, pending
    the outcome of the appeals.

    If the North Gauteng High Court merely hinted
    in that direction, Mingiedi openly and angrily accuses Pretoria
    of conniving with the DRC government because he says “Zuma and
    Kabila are like this”, twining his forefinger and middle
    finger.

    He says the Zuma administration is protecting
    Kabila, including by failing to criticise his decision to cling
    to power last December after his constitutionally limited two
    terms expired.

    It has been suggested that Zuma may even be
    protecting family commercial interests, including the oil
    concessions which Kabila gave his nephew Khulubuse Zuma,
    allegedly at President Zuma’s behest.

    Jeffery flatly denied that there is any
    conspiracy between the two governments in the Mukungubila case.
    The government is following an automatic administrative process
    in launching the inquiry into whether or not Mukungubila should
    be extradited, he says. If higher courts reject the Department
    of Home Affairs’ appeal against the North Gauteng High Court’s
    decision to grant asylum to Mukungubila, he will get asylum. If
    the department’s appeal succeeds and its appeal against the
    South Gauteng High Court’s decision also succeeds, the inquiry
    into whether Mukungubila should be extradited will
    resume.

    But is Judge Mululeke right in suggesting the
    South African government has failed to consider the
    implications of sending Mukungubila back to
    DRC?

    Politics are always very murky in DRC, but
    Stephanie Wolters, a DRC expert at the Pretoria-based Institute
    for Security Studies, says she believes that Mukungubila’s
    followers did in fact attack the heavily guarded national
    broadcaster and other state institutions on December 30, 2013
    and so committed a crime.

    But she also doubts whether he would receive
    proper justice if he were sent home, noting how many opposition
    politicians Kabila’s government has simply thrown into jail,
    without due process.

    The League of Electors, a Congolese human
    rights NGO, and the Federation of International Human Rights,
    (FIDH) based in France, investigated the incidents of December
    30 and concluded in their report of May 2014 that though the
    cause of the violence was murky, the DRC security forces had in
    any case “perpetrated grave violations of human rights” in
    bloodily suppressing Mukungubila’s
    followers.

    It said the final official death toll of 103
    “fell far short of reality” and that most of Mukungubila’s
    followers who died had been “summarily executed”. Many others
    had been arrested without being charged and had been tortured
    in jail and others had been “disappeared”. It called on the DRC
    government to launch an independent inquiry into the incident,
    to release all detainees and to exhume the bodies in a mass
    grave at Lubumbashi allegedly of victims of the December 30
    violence.

    It also urged neighbouring governments to
    grant refugee status to Mukungubila’s
    followers.

    One hopes Pretoria has read this report.
    DM

    Photo: Paul-Joseph Mukungubila (via
    Twitter)

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