President Jacob Zuma, accompanied by nine ministers, held bilateral talks with Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) President Joseph Kabila on Friday amid the worst political turmoil in the country since Kabila took office in 2006.
Given the strong economic and political relations between the two countries it was an opportunity for Zuma to prevail upon Kabila not to pursue a third term in office, which is prohibited under the country’s constitution.
South Africa invested immense political and financial capital in ensuring a smooth transition to democracy following the 2002 Inter-Congolese Dialogue in Sun City, and played a key role in assisting with the holding of the 2006 democratic elections – the first to be held in the DRC after four decades.
More recently, South Africa has directly invested in the stability of the DRC by sending its soldiers to neutralise the M23 rebels which wreaked havoc in the east of the country. The defeat of the M23 rebellion, and the advent of democracy in the DRC, will be counted among Kabila’s legacies.
In terms of South Africa’s own national interests, it has enjoyed a burgeoning trade relationship with Africa’s largest state, providing 20 percent of the DRC’s imports, which amounted to R13 billion in 2014. South Africa has also co-operated with the DRC on security sector reform, infrastructure development, capacity and institution building, humanitarian and social affairs.