November 7, 2011 / 12:06 PM / 7 years ago

Congo opposition leader courts South Africa support

* DRC opposition leader meets top ANC officials

* Denies rumours of ill-health

By Peroshni Govender

JOHANNESBURG, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Congo’s main opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi, is in South Africa meeting senior African National Congress officials and businessmen to drum up support ahead of polls due at the end of the November, his spokesman said on Monday.

Tshisekedi, leader of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is the main rival to President Joseph Kabila in elections seen as a crucial step in the mineral-rich nation’s recovery from a civil war that ended in 2003 and left 5 million people dead.

“Mr Tshisekedi has met with the top management of the ANC and discussions were about how the party will support the UDPS,” Leonard Mulunda, a spokesman for Tshisekedi in South Africa, told Reuters.

“He also met with investors and South African mining and agricultural companies.”

The ANC’s chief spokesman, Jackson Mthembu, was not immediately available for comment.

Mulunda denied reports that Tshisekedi was in South Africa to receive medical attention.

“Physically he’s doing very well,” he said.

The Nov. 28 elections will be the second since Kabila assumed power in 2001 after his father was assassinated and analysts have warned that the polls could trigger more violence.

Kabila is expected to win despite losing considerable support over his failure to tackle corruption or bring total peace to the country, which is still haunted by rebel groups in its eastern jungles.

South African sources said Tshisekedi had been given three planes by South African businessmen for campaigning. It is unclear whether they will be granted permission to enter Congolese air space.

“Kabila is not allowing people to fly around the country to campaign on the national airline. The planes are also funded by rich Congolese businessmen who want to see a change in the country. I am not in a position to name the South Africans,” Mulunda said.

South African companies in the DRC include retailer Shoprite , telecommunications group Vodacom and mining firms African Rainbow Minerals and Mvelaphanda .

Congo’s minerals riches have drawn billions of dollars in foreign investment, though developments have been held back by continued violence in parts of the country and worries over contract security.

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