Moïse Katumbi Chapwe
Governor of Katanga
Governor of Katanga
Moïse Katumbi Katebe Chapwe, a multimillionaire, is the powerful governor of the Province of Katanga, one of the mineral-rich Wild West zones of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is also a member of President Joseph Kabila’s ruling party PPRD. His older brother Raphaël Soriano (aka Katebe Katoto), also a multimillionaire and a former Vice-President of Rwandan-backed rebel militia RCD-Goma, was singled out by the 2008 UN Jason Stearns Report as “one of the financiers of CNDP” of Laurent Nkunda, an accusation he vehemently denies.
Moïse Katumbi and Raphaël Katebe Katoto are both the sons of Nissim Soriano, one of the many Sephardic Jews who emigrated to the Congo from the Greek Rhodes Island (then under Italian rule) to flee the Nazis prior to WW II. According to Belgian journalist Colette Braeckman, Nissim Soriano remained “faithful to Israel” and in his last wishes requested to be buried in Haifa.
Soriano’s sons changed their names to the maiden name of their mother, a Congolese, when Mobutu ordered all Congolese to change their Western names in keeping with his Afrocentrist semiotic fraud called “Authenticity.”
But the predicament of Governor Moïse Katumbi has nothing to do with his brother Raphaël, a self-styled enemy of the Congolese state. It also has nothing to do with his populism or his anti-corruption image, which has taken a dent of late.
It’s all about his “notoriety” which, according to Braeckman, “could prove dangerous for this man who, during the 2006 elections, was the champion of preferential votes, but who also escaped several times injury in mysterious freak accidents, including when the landing gear of his plane got stuck on departure from Kinshasa”!
Moïse Katumbi’s “notoriety” took a boost last year with the release of “Katanga Business” by the Belgian filmmaker and “globe trotter” Thierry Michel, a film which has since been turned into a book. The film has also been re-released as “Katanga, la guerre du cuivre” [Katanga, the war for copper].
Though the movie was shown with much fanfare in Kinshasa and in other provincial capitals in the presence of its director, it was simply banned in Kisangani by the governor of Orientale Province and the security services, though they couldn’t pinpoint what it was that warranted such censorship. Colette Braeckman speculated that “it is obvious that Katanga Business contributes to have the populist governor known throughout the whole country and that his colleagues from the other provinces takes umbrage at the rising popularity of the one who appears to be their rival from Katanga.”
Braeckman was mistaken in thinking the movie was banned in Kisangani due to the rivalry of governors; it was censored because Katumbi was touted as a potential presidential contender. And Kisangani being Joseph Kabila’s stronghold and a beneficiary of opportune instances of presidential largesse, it went without saying that the kind of loose talk entertained in “Katanga Business” couldn’t be tolerated by Kisangani provincial authorities.
Press reports tout Katumbi as the “future president” as wherever the governor goes in Katanga he is greeted as the “Prezo” or the President—thus potentially setting the governor at loggerheads with the “Rais” Joseph Kabila himself.
This is the kind of notoriety Governor Moïse Katumbi wouldn’t particularly relish.
Unfortunately, a March 25 article by Marc Nexon of the French weekly magazine Le Point entitled “Moïse Katumbi, lord of Katanga” reinforces this inauspicious notoriety of the Katangese governor. The subtitle of the article spells the governor’s headache from the get go: “Fabulous. He doles out plenty of dollars and rules his province with an iron fist. The next president of the Congo?”
Beside this ominous speculation on the political future of the governor and on his personal fortune estimated at “$ 60 million,” the article also questions the governor’s reputation of the incorruptible “Robin Hood” of Katanga (he is “a mix of Chavez and Berlusconi,” the filmmaker Thierry Michel is quoted as saying in the article):
“A tropical Robin Hood? Not so fast… the governor’s companies seem to benefit from a preferential treatment. And, in particular, the red trucks of his transportation company. ‘They cross the border [with Zambia] without a hitch and I’ve been waiting for six days!’ grumbles Augustin, a trucker sitting on the bumper of his truck. ‘I’ve seen revenue officials delete five zeroes from the tax money owed by Katumbi’s companies,’ a business lawyer alleges. For the governor has never stopped doing business. Since his election it’s his wife, Karine, 35, former banker, who deals with contracts. ‘She opens and closes suitcases full of banknotes,’ says a witness.”But the article also caused some people to be terrified in Lubumbashi. This is the case of Timothée Mbuya, Katanga’s vice-president of ASADHO, the African Association for the Defense of Human Rights. This is what Timothée Mbuya is purported to have told Marc Nexon on the record about the managerial style of the governor of Katanga: “Everything is improvised and follow-up doesn’t exist.”
The problem is that Timothée Mbuya was quoted verbatim in the article. And in Katanga, you don’t disrespect popular politicians with impunity. Realizing that this unfortunate sentence could have him beaten to a pulp by a mob of Katumbi’s supporters, Timothée Mbuya, after personally apologizing to the governor, called a press conference on Wednesday March 31 to deny he ever uttered that stupid sentence. During the press conference, Mbuya also claimed to have sent an email to Le Point denying the quote attributed to him! But Mbuya's forceful denial could have had more weight had he come out to assert in no uncertain terms that he never met Marc Nexon...