Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

THE case of 20 men accused of seeking military weapons and training in South Africa to overthrow the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo was postponed to February 27 at the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.

Last week 19 of the men, including a Congolese-American dual citizen named James Kazongo, were arrested in Limpopo after what police said was a long undercover operation.

The case was postponed to give all the accused an opportunity to make formal bail applications. The first 19 accused will be represented in the magistrate’s court by Johan Kotze. Accused number 20, Etienne Kabila, will be represented by Francois van As.

Mr Kabila turned himself over to police in Cape Town at the weekend. He has since been taken to Pretoria and appeared before the magistrate on Monday.

Kabila has previously claimed to be the half-brother of Congolese President Joseph Kabila, a claim the family of the Congolese president has denied.

Last week prosecutor Shaun Abrahams told magistrate Maryke de la Rey the state had evidence that the accused had gone to great lengths over a five-month period to obtain military training and weapons to overthrow the government of Joseph Kabila.

The evidence included e-mails as well as accounts of meetings at restaurants and hotels between some of the accused and undercover police, now state witnesses in the case.

Mr Abrahams last week told the court the accused were part of a group call the Unit of Nationalists for Renewal. On Thursday Mr Abrahams said the state would be prepared to present evidence in two weeks, on February 27.

Before the session began on Thursday morning, supporters of the 20 Congolese men were told they could not all sit for the court case as the court room was too small to accommodate the dozens of Congolese.

Supporters remained adamant that the accused were innocent. One supporter, Zdoudou Bambi, said the 20 men had no plans to overthrow Joseph Kabila’s government with military force.

"The authorities are working with Kabila to arrest these people for nothing. They are innocent. We live with some of them and they don’t know anything," Mr Bambi said.

A representative of the Congolese community supporting the accused, Kazadi Ilunda Mpanga, said while the accused and many in the Congolese community in South Africa wanted change in their native country, there was no connection between the accused and the Unit of Nationalists for Renewal or the rebel group M23.