South African investigations become more suspicious, with Rwanda National Congress links

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It is now four months and counting since someone strangled Patrick Karegeya to death in a Sandton (Johannesburg) hotel, but neither the South African Police nor its intelligence services appear ready to divulge credible information as to who the killers, or their motives might have been.

South African authorities instead have expelled four Rwandan diplomats and a Burundian (why the Burundian? they do not say) from Pretoria, for which Kigali retaliated by expelling six South African diplomats.

Then there followed a statement on 15 March from the office of Clayson Monyela, head of South African Public Diplomacy. The statement talks, in broad terms, of “certain criminal elements” who “have sought to undermine South Africa’s territorial integrity”. It then talks of the June 2010 assassination attempt on Kayumba Nyamwasa in Johannesburg, and that “criminal proceedings pertaining to this incident are in advanced stages”.

Like everything to do with the South African authorities’ handling of issues to do with attacks on Rwandan dissidents residing in South Africa, Monyela’s statement sheds less light on events it purports to talk about but raises more suspicions whether they (SA authorities) are entirely forthcoming with the truth.

For instance, two of the expelled Rwandan diplomats, Fred Rwabalinda and Aimable Nshagayintwari were new to Pretoria, only two weeks old in their duties, when they were handed their deportation letters. Yet the letters, and Monyela’s statement gave the impression that the “criminal acts” they talked of had been going on for a long time.

So why deport Rwabalinda and Nshagayintwari who had only then just received their accreditation cards from the South African Department of International Relations? Neither the deportation letters or the statement say.

Furthermore the other two diplomats, Didier Rutembesa the Chargé d’Affaires at the Rwandan Embassy in Pretoria and Claude Nikobisanzwe the First Secretary had never received any warning letter, or caution from the South African government in connection with any alleged criminal activity.

Speaking to The Rwanda Focus from Johannesburg, South African journalist Robert Shivambu of radio station Power FM said he and other media colleagues are “quite frankly” puzzled by these expulsions, and the statements that are handed to the media purporting to explain them.

“The statements are out there, but they explain nothing!” said Shivambu.

It is becoming clearer, according to journalists like Shivambu, that the SA government either has no information to disseminate on the Kayumba/Karegeya issues, or it is actively engaged in some cover up. But Shivambu seems to be in a tiny minority of SA journalists willing to question official versions of events given by his country’s officials on things to do with Rwanda. 

The RNC and SA security

The Rwanda Focus discovered four years ago is that elements of South African Police in Johannesburg, and some intelligence operatives actively work with members of the so-called Rwandan opposition in exile. When Francis Gakwerere – a perennial victim of false accusations that he is behind assassination attempts on fugitive general Nyamwasa or the killing of Karegeya – was arrested in June 2010 and thrown into the interrogation cells of the John Vorster Police Station in Johannesburg he was taken aback when he saw that among his interrogators was one Frank Ntwali, a brother in law to Kayumba Nyamwasa. Today Ntwali is the “chairman of the RNC (Rwanda National Congress), Africa region”. Gakwerere narrated his ordeals under Johannesburg Police questioning to The Rwanda Focusfor an exclusive interview that we published on 18 July 2010.

“I refused to talk to the Police unless Ntwali left the cell; what was he doing there?!” Gakwerere asked. A day later Police dropped charges against Gakwerere of attempted murder and he returned to Rwanda, having lost a few thousand dollars to thieving police and two days of his life undergoing aggressive questioning and miserably cold conditions in cells.

To repeat Gakwerere’s question, when Frank Ntwali entered a police cell in the company of SA Police to interrogate a Rwandan from Kigali going about his business in a South African city, under what capacity was he acting? It looks, and smells murky.

It gets murkier.

When Johannesburg Police interrogated a young Burundian girl who happened to be in a sex-for-pay triangle with Karegeya and the deceased Burundian singer Christophe Matata, one of her questioners was Frank Ntwali. Matata’s demise in a Johannesburg hospital after ingesting a drug slipped into his drink by the girl (who confessed it to Burundian media) was well chronicled in the country’s media. At this point the question comes up, starkly: has the RNC become part and parcel of South African law enforcement?

Repeated attempts to get an answer from South African Police elicited no answer.

The question takes on more relevance when one takes a closer look at events surrounding the killing of Karegeya in the Michelangelo Hotel on New Year 2014.

This hotel is way up there among the most exclusive, and top end in South Africa. Heads of state stayed there during the recent funeral of Nelson Mandela. It is located in the most affluent neighborhood on the African continent. It goes without saying that security in such a facility is top notch. One cannot imagine for instance that there could be any fault with its closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras.

Yet up to now SA Police and intelligence investigators have not made public any CCTV footage or images, despite initial statements that they would. Four months into this investigation – during which they have put out other (equally false) statements, including the supposed arrest of Rwandan operatives in Mozambique on suspicion of the murder – they have nothing to show for their inquiries.

It is apparent that someone, or several somebodies in the SA security setup is engaged in a cover up, and a throwaway remark by journalist Shivambu offers a nugget of a clue. “Zuma (South African President Jacob Zuma) has issued instructions to the Police not to say anything about it” (the investigation), Shivambu told this journalist.

What is Zuma afraid of that the police or intelligence may divulge? Does CCTV footage of assassins walking into Karegeya’s room at the Michelangelo exist or not? If they do, as they should, why is it the security agencies are sitting on them, despite the clamor by the media for them? And if they existed and somehow implicated Rwanda would the SA intelligence apparatus hold off on making them public? This is hard to believe seeing how eager Zuma’s government seems to be to pin crimes on Rwanda, even in the total absence of evidence. 

An incompetently cooked up story

The most recent and most spectacularly childish attempt to frame Rwanda for a cooked up crime is the “assassination attempt” on Kayumba Nyamwasa early last month.

When the alleged assailants “attacked” Nyamwasa’s residence in Johannesburg, he and his entire family conveniently weren’t home. SA intelligence claims the family had been evacuated following a tip-off that a Rwandan hit squad was coming for the fugitive general.

But, according to their version of events South African Police and intelligence acted with a level of incompetence that would make the Congolese gendarme look like the Israeli Mossad in comparison.

They say they knew a Rwandan hit squad was on the way, but did not lay a trap for the “assailants”. In fact, according to these SA intelligence people, the Rwandan “hit-squad” walked to the gate of Nyamwasa’s house, disarmed the two policemen guarding the house, proceeded to ransack it, and walked out of there, unchallenged.

The reality is that this incompetently contrived story gives the game away of the Police and intelligence operatives that planned it: they want, a) to show the public they indeed are doing their work countering perceived Rwandan skullduggery and b) they want to make ever more trouble for Rwanda in the process.

In all this they are being enabled by a media whose incompetence (at least as far as the Nyamwasa/Karegeya story is concerned) seems as staggering as its country’s security people.

Most South African media, which routinely and robustly questions power, has shown only an unfathomable laziness where “the Rwandan story” is concerned, in that they will only swallow and regurgitate stories such as the alleged assassination attempt. No questions to security officials as to how they could fail to trap foreign assassins in their midst even after alleged tip-offs; no challenge as to how it was even possible for foreign operatives to raid in broad daylight a house supposedly protected 24/7, since they know Nyamwasa has been the target of armed attack before; not a single salient question in fact.

One can see the logic in the Zuma government trying to pin crimes on Rwanda, even in circumstances totally devoid of evidence. President Zuma, who as you read this is being investigated for diverting millions of his country’s taxpayers’ rands into revamping one of his private residencies, the one at Nkandla, is a man with a voracious appetite for wealth, especially other people’s wealth.

Him, and Tanzanian head of state Jakaya Kikwete for instance contrived to have their countries’ militaries sent to the Congo under the guise of “peacekeeping”, but in reality to have a piece of the action in the extraction of Congolese mineral wealth. Their real target was the M23 rebel group, which came into being as a self-defense militia of the Tutsis of eastern DRC who for the past several years have been confronted with the prospect of annihilation at the hands of the FDLR Hutu rebels and their Congolese army sidekicks.

After Patrick Karegeya turned traitor and went into self-imposed exile in SA, Zuma saw him as a godsend. Kikwete too was delighted. Karegeya had cultivated both men when he still was head of Rwandan external intelligence. They were close friends. His defecting seemed a boon to Zuma and Kikwete because, they seemed to think, they could use his knowhow of Rwandan security secrets and operations in positioning themselves as protectors to Congolese President Joseph Kabila who has a child’s bogeyman fear of Rwanda, imagining it behind every one of his problems.

Very soon the alliance of RNC (Karegeya, Kayumba) and Zuma/Kikwete was driving a lot of clandestine events, all geared to maximizing their personal wealth while maximizing trouble for Rwanda.

All that is reason for Zuma and his pal Kikwete to be engaged in much rearguard, sniping against Kagame and Rwanda. 

International media becomes vehicle of misinformation on Rwanda

But what does the South African media have to gain by broadcasting and propagating the narrative which the corrupt Zuma exactly wants them to? Only they know.

Why is a good number of South African journalists willing to unquestioningly broadcast or publish stories handfed them by the RNC, for example the funny claim which originated from Frank Ntwali that Rwandan “military operative”, “Col.” Francis Gakwerere (he has never been a colonel, and he has been out of military service for several years now) had been arrested in Mozambique, in relation to the Karegeya murder?

That was around 16 in January. I got out my phone and dialed Gakwerere’s number. “What is this thing I hear that you’ve been arrested in Mozambique?” I asked him.

His response: “what am I to do? I do not control those media. They will say what they want!”  I took him out for lunch and had pictures of us together taken and I tweeted them. That dispelled the rumors.

A foreign press that was too willing to disseminate misinformation which can easily ruin an individual’s life (Gakwerere’s), would find no compunction in jumping onto, and widely broadcasting/repeating the canard that the Rwandan president said he killed Karegeya.

I was in the audience at the Serena Hotel when President Kagame was addressing the prayer breakfast early in January where he purportedly said that. I did not hear Kagame say he killed Karegeya and I did not hear him say he ordered Karegeya killed. All I heard was him expressing satisfaction that such an enemy of Rwanda had met the end he did. All I heard him say was that Rwandans shouldn’t shy away from expressing happiness that such a traitor had died. All I heard was Kagame saying, “You cannot betray Rwanda and expect things will end well for you.” Maybe he was talking about karma. Maybe he was saying someone had put the hex on all Rwanda’s enemies. I was not in Kagame’s mind. But to say he said he killed Karegeya is totally false.

There are many possible scenarios to account for Patrick Karegeya’s death.

Rwanda indeed may have had a hand in his killing. After all he was fighting Rwanda and it wouldn’t be surprising if it fought back.

But the stronger possibility is that South African intelligence working with elements of the RNC eliminated him, and all their suspicious behavior may be a pointer to that. Nyamwasa himself, when one looks at it objectively, would have an interest in having his fellow fugitive wiped out. Looked at from Nyamwasa or even Zuma’s perspective, Karegeya was no longer very useful. The M23 was no longer in existence, hence his intelligence skills dealing with groups perceived to be backed by Rwanda such as they were, were no longer needed. In fact he had become a dangerous liability with his drinking and reckless womanizing and greed for piles of dollars; a man one never trusted was safe with the kind of information he had, at any time of the day, in any place. One other aspect of the Karegeya/Nyamwasa partnership that isn’t public knowledge is that the two had been internally fighting for RNC leadership and things were getting pretty vicious between them.

It may be a long time, if ever, before the truth of Karegeya’s killing is known.

But it is time for the activities of the South African security operatives and the RNC, to come under more intense scrutiny both locally, in South Africa, and internationally.

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