Mbabane – A Swaziland High Court on Monday jailed a South African man for 85 years for high treason and terrorism over a botched bomb attack against King Mswati III.
High Court Judge Bheki Maphalala last month found Amos Mbedzi guilty of planning to plant the bomb at a bridge of the Lozitha Royal Palace in the commercial hub Manzini in 2008.
“Having found you guilty…, I therefore sentence you to 85 years in prison and the sentence is to run concurrently and is back dated to the day you were arrested,” Maphalala said.
The bomb was intended for Africa’s last absolute monarch, who was due to use the bridge the same night, but the bomb exploded prematurely in the car Mbedzi was travelling in.
Mbedzi survived with serious injuries while two others in the car were killed.
He will effectively serve 19 years as the sentences will run concurrently. In other words, he will serve the longest term of 25 years, less the six years he has already spent in detention since his arrest.
The judge also found Mbedzi had been part of the Umbane People’s Liberation Army, a secret militant group linked to the People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo), which sought to undermine elections that year until Swaziland allowed a multi-party vote.
Political parties were banned in 1973 and voters choose candidates approved by traditional leaders and the king.
A series of small bomb blasts rattled the country in 2008, with Umbane claiming responsibility for the attacks.
Following the botched attack, the state proscribed Pudemo and several activists went into exile.
King Mswati III has faced increasing protests in the last few months as the kingdom weathers a severe economic crisis, partly blamed on his lavish lifestyle with his 13 wives.
Authorities have resisted increased demands for democratic reforms, the latest an almost eight-week long teachers’ strike which died down last month.
Mbedzi underwent training at Umkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress, when it was still fighting the white minority regime under apartheid. He is also a member of the South African Communist Party (SACP).