SWAZILAND: Bomb blast kills two

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Two men were killed and a third injured after a bomb exploded on 21 September close to King Mswati III's Lozitha palace, 25kms east of the Swazi capital, Mbabane.

Police suspect that the bomb exploded prematurely as it was placed at a road bridge by the perpetrators. Police said the two men killed were a Swazi national and a man said to be Indian. The man who survived the blast was a 44-year-old South African national and was taken in to police custody and faces charges of treason - a capital offence. He appeared in Manzini Magistrate’s Court on 22 September.

A fourth man, aged 30-years-old from Johannesburg in South Africa, fled the scene and was the subject of a manhunt police said.

The bomb blast came in the wake of parliamentary polls on 19 September. According to Swaziland's elections, candidates are permitted to contest the poll as independents, while political parties are banned, in a system known as Tinkhundla. Mswati remains sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch and holds elections every five year's and then chooses his prime minister.


This election has seen mounting protests against the Tinkhundla system, amid calls for a more representative style of democracy.

In 1998, following elections, a security guard was killed by a bomb planted at the offices of the deputy prime minister's offices in Mbabane and there have been a string of bombings since, which remain unsolved.

The bomb at Lozitha bridge, about one kilometre from Swaziland’s largest royal palace and a principal residence for Mswati, also houses the King’s Office, which administers royal affairs, and the Liqoqo, the band of royal elders who act as the king's senior advisors.

The highway is Swaziland’s main road artery connecting Mbabane with the commercial town of Manzini, where the bulk of the country's manufacturing sector is based. The landlocked country imports the majority of its commercial goods by road from South Africa, most of it by way of the highway that skirts the Lozitha palace.

The bomb exploded shortly before midnight, causing a passing vehicle to flip over. The driver sustained injuries.

The People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), one of the country's banned political parties, has called for a more militant approach to achieving democracy, but denied any part in the bombing.

"There seems no end in sight for these bombings. There must be movement toward democratic change (to stop them)," PUDEMO's president, Mario Masuku, told IRIN.

Masuku was locked up in a police van for about six hours on 20 September, after he had attempted to join a pro-democracy protest that blocked traffic at the South African border post.

One of the protest's organisers, the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU), has distanced itself from the use of violence to attain political goals, after two explosions earlier this month coincided with a march by 15,000 of its members in Mbabane.

"The police must find the culprits. We as a union have always said that violence is not the answer," SFTU Secretary General Jan Sithole said.