South African Oranges, Sovereignty and Pretoria Central Prison. MJoTA 2013 v7n1 0521
This morning I awoke
before dawn and made my way to Pretoria Central Prison with relatives of the
Congolese 20 - a wife and a brother – and 2 supportive members of the Congolese
community. We loaded the car with toiletries, blankets, food for the men: our instructions were only
foods and drinks in clear plastic packages, plus bags of apples, grapefruit,
South African oranges.
We eat them in New Jersey. They come by container ship to Philadelphia.
A lot of goods come from
Africa into Philadelphia. Cocoa from West Africa, mostly from Cote D’Ivoire. So
that it can be converted into chocolate by Hershey’s, and sold back to Africa.
The trade between South
Africa and Pennsylvania is continuous; at the Philadelphia Mayor’s Commission
on Africa and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs has frequently invited the
Pennsylvania officers in charge of overseeing these trades.
The movement of people
between South Africa and Pennsylvania is also regulated; and officers in charge
of keeping the peace between South Africa and the United States staff the
Embassies and Consulates.
The capital city of
South Africa is Pretoria, where the United States has an embassy which makes
sure all goes smoothly in trade in oranges and treatment of Americans in South
Africa and South Africans in the US.
I am sympathetic to the
Congolese 20 and their families and friends; goodness gracious, why else would
I be in South Africa for the trial?
The most usual question I hear is why has
President Obama not intervened to spring James Kazongo out of jail? After all,
President Obama has an African father, and James Kazongo is an American
I answer patiently that
the diplomatic staff of the US Embassy in Pretoria could not be more helpful. They first
contacted Janine Kazongo and told her that her husband had been detained awaiting
trial, have frequently visited James Kazongo in prison and has passed on to him things sent by Janine.
A foreign power interfering with the laws of a sovereign country: oh no.
That is an act of war. The US has to wait until the judicial processes have
played out. And the more I learn, the more I know that the Congolese 20 will be
acquitted. These processes grind far more slowly than any of their relatives
and friends want; but they are moving and I know the outcome will be positive
for the men.
James Kazongo told me
his story today; so did Chadrien Kilele.
Chadrian Kilele was the
link between the Congolese 20 and Pretoria Central Prison. He told me his
nephew brought a man to him who wanted contact with Etienne Kabila. The nephew
knew that Mr Kilele and Mr Etienne Kabila were friends. Mr Kilele was wooed
by Andrew Nkuna and his white friends with pictures of them with senior South
African government and ANC party officials and official documents.
is the father of 6 children, and a student of forensic science, and everything
he saw convinced him they really did want to help Congolese refugees, as they
claimed, and they had money to do this.
Mr Kilele met several
times with the men who were willing to help the desperate plight of the
Congolese refugees in South Africa, and twice convinced Mr Etienne Kabila to
travel the 2,000 km from Capetown to Johannesburg to meet them.
meeting, Mr Kabila smelled a rat, and did his best to convince Mr Kilele to get
far away from these men.
And then the emails
started. From Sep to Jan, emails offering increasingly more cash for contracts.
Once Mr Kabila was no longer communicating with Mr Kilele and the men who
claimed to be friends of Congo, the story changed.
The sums of money offered
had increased from USD30,000 to USD450,000 by the time Mr Kilele took the
bait, and contacted James Kasongo. The work for this sum was to set up an
anti-poaching camp to stop rhinos being killed for their horns.