Hundreds of Congolese call on Zuma to intervene in crisis

They descended on the embassy in PTA, demanding Zuma facilitate real democracy in their country.

People stand beside burning objects in the middle of the street on 19 January, 2015 in Kinshasa. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Hundreds of people from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have descended on the embassy in Pretoria this afternoon, demanding President Jacob Zuma take a stand and facilitate real democracy in their home country.

The demand follows widespread protests in the country's capital against a reform of the electoral code which the opposition says is designed to keep President Joseph Kabila in power.

Forty-two people have reportedly been killed in the demonstrations while on home soil it's understood five people have been arrested.

Community leader John Kongod'abord says, "The law wants to change to allow Kabila to stay in that position."

CONGO PROTESTS ENTER THIRD DAY

At least 42 people have been killed in three days of protests in the DRC, a rights group said, three times the official estimate.

Paul Nsapu, secretary general for Africa of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), said that most of the victims had been killed by government security forces as they took part in political protests.

The government, which says that only 15 people have been killed, said most of the victims were shot by private security guards while looting.

"For the most part these people were killed while they were advancing to protest," Nsapu told Reuters by telephone, adding that more than 100 people had been injured. "We don't expect the government to act in the same way as a rebel group."

In a third day of protests on Wednesday, police fired teargas at demonstrators at the university campus in the riverside capital Kinshasa, a Reuters witness said.

Clashes also took place in three other areas of the teeming riverside capital, security sources said.

In the central neighbourhood of Matete on Wednesday, a witness reported security forces firing live rounds at protesters, who had erected barricades of burning tyres in the streets and responded by hurling rocks.

The opposition called the protests on Monday to try to take control of parliament and stop pro-government legislators approving a reform of the electoral code that would require a census before the 2016 presidential vote. The opposition says that would take years to organise such a national count.

Kabila came to power when his father was shot dead in 2001 and won disputed elections in 2006 and 2011. The constitution bars him from standing for a third term in next year's ballot.

Kabila's allies say a census could be completed within a year, but opponents argue that it will take far longer in a nation the size of Western Europe, which has little infrastructure and poor communications.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende said at least 11 people were killed in Tuesday's violence, and four people on Monday.

Mende said security guards had killed 10 civilians who were trying to loot private property on Tuesday, and a policeman also died.

"We registered no demonstration near the parliament building ... This was only pillage, extortion, destruction and vandalism," he added.

Additional reporting by Reuters