DRC 'Mercenaries', Sicalo Foundation and the plot for power (Part I of II)
Remove all that you have heard about so called mercenaries infiltration protests or killing Swazis while wearing the local army uniform. That at best is a government counter narrative orchestrated by Vuma Reputation Management largely based on falsehoods. Now that we have that settled, The Bridge welcomes you to a different story altogether. About two months ago this publication began investigating a story of French and English speaking ‘mercenaries’ coming from as far as Belgium and the United Kingdom who were being recruited to use eSwatini as a base to organise future attacks on the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo. But first they needed to help at home.
But in order to sift chaff from grain we need to start with what is known and official public record. It is officially known that just after the Incwala ceremony last year the king was sick with COVID. What was not detailed though is how serious the monarch's condition was. The king apparently suffered cardiac failings and doctors had to save his life by pumping all manner of drugs to his heart leaving it 'overloaded' and his life on the edge. Everyone in the royal household didn't believe the king would make it. In that period, every faction of the royal family feared anarchy due to the lack of a known successor. Quite interestingly, once the country erupted into an uprising recently, the official government position was to blame 'mercenaries'. What The bridge has uncovered is that these two seemingly unrelated events are tethered and once pieced together they reveal an elaborate scheme boiling behind the scenes.
The rebels recruited from the DRC were promised military support by one of the King’s children if they helped secure the throne should there be a leadership vacuum in the country. At a time the king was reportedly sick and everyone believed he wouldn't make it. The rebels were put on standby. The deeply divided army, whose loyalties is increasingly with different factions of possible successors, was not to be trusted to secure the throne. For this reason, these mercenaries were to come in handy in the event there was a leadership vacuum.
At least that is the story most of those recruited were told. These Congolese 'mercenaries' have for a while now been clandestinely operating in the country. They are recruited from all over the world by Christian Malanga, a Congolese businessman and President of the United Congolese Party (UCP). Malanga is also a board member of Prince Sicalo Foundation and is described on the organisation’s website as “providing bridges of opportunity for the Foundation’s exposure and expansion with the international community.” But Malanga is more than just a businessman, he is a highly sophisticated military man with political ambitions in the DRC. His political party, the United Congolese Party (UCP), identifies itself as a “grassroot platform that unifies the Congolese Diaspora around the world in opposition to the current Congolese government”.
Before entering politics, Malanga was a former military veteran. He is currently married to Lucile Malanga who stays in Georgia. Malanga has been operating in eSwatini for a while now and has already fraternised with many of the country’s political leadership mainly through Prince Sicalo’s Foundation. He uses his deep pockets to bankroll the foundation but also to recruit for his mission back in the Congo. The story of the called mercenaries operating in the country is known by authorities hence came in handy as an opportunistic obfuscation in the current crisis mainly to deflect attention from the king.
Prince Sicalo Foundation Board member Christian Malanga
In fact, even the widely circulating rant of Gayle Horn, mistakenly thought to be Minister of Finance’s wife Barbara, the issue of Congolese mercenaries is mentioned. The country’s weak security and intelligence has meant that the government has no idea just how many of the mercenaries are already in the country and how extensive is their network and operations. This is more so because the mercenaries operate in discrete cells that are spread all over the country and do not even know each other. The glue that holds all of them together is Malanga. Little is told too about the details of the operations to the DRC except that the Prince will help with military hardware, logistics and other operational needs. In return the mercenaries are expected to help the Prince take over the throne should there be a leadership vacuum in the country, now or in the future.
At least that is what some of those recruited were told. For now, The Bridge cannot confirm if Malanga uses his close association with the Prince Sicalo Foundation as bait for recruitment and legitimacy but what is clear is that our source, who was recruited from Europe, told us that they were promised military support by the kingdom in order to topple the Congolese government. This hinged on helping the eSwatini case too. The DRC is a politically volatile country and many of the Congolese diaspora hate Kabila even as he is no longer in power. They see the recent elections in DRC as an illegitimate political charade to confuse and appease the international community into submission. Contrary to a transfer of power between Kabila to Felix Tshisekedi, the elections are understood as a farce, masterminded to ensure Kabila’s continued control and power over the DRC. Kabila has never intended to give up his seat. The true voices of the opposition have all been arrested or threatened or killed.
The Congolese people are desperate for a better life where Kabila is completely out of politics and are furious that the international community legitimised the recent elections. They see the recent elections as merely helped to secure Kabila’s power. These conditions have made it easier to recruit people to fight back in the DRC. In any event, the country has a history of political violence. Malanga is therefore recognised as one of the leading political figures and it is easy for people to trust his legitimacy. Most of the Congolese operating with him in the country have no legal papers and those who have are forged. Malinga has been able to operate below the radar for a long time.
This makes his operations and groups almost invisible to the weak security establishment in the country. The mercenaries disguise themselves either as businessmen or visiting tourists and are aided by an Israeli businessman who claims to have contact with Israel’s secret service, Mossad. The name of the Israeli businessman is known to this publication but will not be revealed for now. Some entered the country illegally via South Africa while others like *Felix Kapinga entered the country using the Sikhuphe airport officially. Kapinga, for example, was housed together with five other members of his unit at a house belonging to Dudu Mabilisa*, a single woman who runs a piggery business in Mbekelweni in the Manzini region. Within his unit were fellow Congolese from the diaspora, two from Belgium and three from the United Kingdom. However, only one could speak English fluently.
Two of Malanga’s recruits stay in Tubungu. Most of their conversations were in French partly as a strategy to conceal what was being discussed but also because that is a language everyone is comfortable with. Mabilisa came to Malanga’s orbit after Malanga told her he had friends who wanted to visit the country but didn't want to use the hotel instead would ask to use her house and give her the money instead. A Manzini based lawyer and cabinet minister have been helping Congolese nationals with documents to enter and remain in the country illegally.
To understand Sicalo in the royal dynamics important considerations have to be understood. Traditionally the first of the king’s two ritual wives has a specific function; sex with the king in order to drain the negativity from him in his sperm. The resulting first born child is alleged to be filled with 'powerful negativity' and was historically killed at birth in the 19th century. After King Sobhuza’s investiture in 1921 the tradition was modified. The first born son was sent away, not killed, and never had royal contact. Times change though, and Mswati’s first born son, Prince Sicalo, was raised along with the other princes.
He went to stay with Gaddafi for military training and after some years in the Libyan military got stuck there during the fall of the regime. He is the only son with charisma, is Major in the army and now Private Secretary in the Ministry of Defence. He recently tried to grab a valuable stone quarry from the owner by sending in soldiers to “guard” it. In effect seizure through intimidation. That met with far more opposition than the prince expected and is a political hot potato. Sicalo is also at the forefront of the deeply unpopular Silulu enterprises which is taking national land and transferring it to the royal family. He is seen in many circles as heir apparent.
Prince Sicalo. He works with Cha
Our investigation led us to Mabilisa who told us she was introduced to Malanga and his group by an Israel man with American citizenship. “I was told these guys were to stay in my place for a few weeks and would be given E7000 that would have otherwise gone to a hotel. They were five of them. I was also told to revamp my house, a part of which had to be demolished to enlarge it and make other fittings where they had to lodge,” the woman told The Bridge. The businesswoman said she also opened up her house after the Israel national promised to pump in money in her agriculture business. Believing she had hit the jackpot, she even demolished her business operational area in order to prepare for a bigger and better structure. While constructions were on going, she disclosed, strange people would come to hold meetings at her home.
“These meetings included the minister, lawyer and other high profile individuals,” she told The Bridge. The businesswoman said she was made to understand that some were from royalty sent by Prince Sicalo on behalf of his Foundation. She said she never worried herself much about this grouping especially as they spoke French. The businesswoman said curiosity drove her to develop interest in the meetings and began to develop a relationship with one of the Congolese who could speak English properly. “My curiosity led to me discovering that these meetings happening in my backyard were of a political nature. I later discovered that these foreigners were rebels and I became very scared especially after it was leaked to me that they were working with a Prince. I was totally opposed to them plotting in my backyard.”
She said when she demanded to told the truth her relationship as host to the so-called investor deteriorated. The businesswoman said she then begun a background check of the people, including their social media accounts, and that is how she realised that one of them was a former leader of the Congolese rebel group. “I didn’t want to be part of this and feared that should government or royalty discover that a plot was being orchestrated in my backyard I would be in trouble for having played host.” She said she had to cut ties and wanted nothing to do with them anymore. “They left me in huge debts, my house dilapidated and my business in turmoil.”
She said they left on a very bad note and said they were taking their business elsewhere because I had stuck my nose in issues that were not of concern to her and her business. Information gathered by this publication is that they were later taken in by another businesswoman of Sidvokodvo, also in the piggery business.
*Not real names to conceal the identity of our sources. The article has been updated to clarify that Kabila is seen as the puppet master behind DRC President Felix Tshisekedi..
NB: Catch Part II of this investigation as we dig deep into the Sicalo Foundation, the mysterious death of the 'illegal' Congolese, The Israel national and the defecting members of the recruits speak out