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Society | Politics

Mysterious bomb attack on Swazi oppositional

Many have been arrested this year for wearing T-shirt with the symbols of Swaziland's banned PUDEMO opposition party

© Pudemo/afrol News
afrol News, 9 June
- A petrol bomb, of the same type that rocked polices stations and Swaziland MPs in 2005, went off at the home of Alex Langwenya, the leader of a banned opposition group. The police immediately arrested Mr Langwenya.

The series of petrol bombs that were aimed at police and members of parliament in Swaziland in 2005 remains an unsolved mystery in the totalitarian kingdom. Suspicion was always directed towards the country's main but banned opposition party PUDEMO or its youth league SWAYOCO, while the opposition pointed to the police itself.

After five years without bomb attacks, yesterday evening at 23 hours an explosion hit a residential area in the otherwise quiet village of Bhunya, south-west of the capital Mbabane. What turned out to be a petrol bomb had exploded in the private home of Mr Langwenya, who was the president of SWAYOCO during the 2005 petrol bomb wave.

No one was injured by the petrol bomb. Mr Langwenya, his wife and his brother were in the house as the bomb went off.

According to Lucky Lukhele, the usually well informed spokesman of the oppositional Swaziland Solidarity Network (SNN), police response to the bomb attack was highly suspicious. "Less than ten minutes after the incident, the police unit known as Lukhozi descended on him and his family and arrested them."

"No attempt was made to pursue any would be suspects or to make preliminary investigations at the crime scene," Mr Lukhele was told by SWAYOCO sources contacted by the bomb victim. "The police's sole objective was detaining Langwenya. Never in the history of policing in Swaziland has it ever happened that the victim of a crime ends up being the one detained," his sources added.

According to SNN and South Africa's main trade union COSATU, circumstances indicated that it was the police itself that had installed the bomb at Mr Langwenya's home. COSATU "in the strongest possible terms" condemned "this latest atrocity by the dictatorship headed by King Mswati III."

But also other possible explanations to the surprise bomb have been aired. One theory says that Mr Langwenya could have been the coordinator of the 2005 petrol bomb series, storing bombs in his house. The petrol bomb could have detonated by accident.

Despite this non-documented theory, the dominating speculations in Swaziland point towards the feared Lukhozi police unit. Investigations into the 2005 bomb series against heavily guarded police stations had been suspiciously low profiled. The petrol bombs thus served the Swazi regime to mobilise support against the banned opposition and to introduce controversial and harsh anti-terrorism laws.

During 2010, pressure against the repressive regime of King Mswati III has again increased. The killing of opposition activist Sipho Jele while in police custody in May and a large controversy about government's refusal to burry him in his village caused a popular outcry against authorities. Shortly after, PUDEMO President Mario Masuku was arrested.

The attacks on the opposition, termed "terrorist organisations" by authorities, have not only caused many Swazis to gain more sympathy for PUDEMO and trade unions. They have also reactivated the international solidarity work demanding democratic reform in the Southern African kingdom.

COSATU has already called on the South African government to put pressure on King Mswati. "The South African government set a very good precedent when they recalled the country's ambassador to Israel in protest against the attack on a flotilla carrying aid to Gaza. This protest will appear insincere if the country cannot take action against a brutal regime in a neighbouring country that has declared war on its own people," COSATU spokesman Patrick Craven said today.

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