A controversial businessman with links to Swaziland’s autocratic King Mswati III was assassinated at a petrol station in the kingdom.
Victor Gamedze was shot twice in the head at the Galp filling station in Ezulwini on Sunday (14 January 2018).
Gamedze was the chairman of Swazi Mobile, a new telecoms company in Swaziland. It was surrounded by allegations of corruption and money laundering. King Mswati, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, was accused of being in collusion with Gamedze and the Zambian President Edgar Lungu in a deal to establish a mobile phone company in Zambia using Swazi Mobile as a cover.
Swaziland is a secretive state where media are censored and it is difficult to uncover the true nature of Swazi Mobile. It is known that the company was awarded a licence to provide mobile phone services that started in July 2017. It beat other companies for the contract although it had no experience in the mobile phone business. Unusually in Swaziland, the company was swiftly launched only five months after the licence was given.
Within three months of the launch Gamedze told media in Swaziland the company had a stock value of E1.2 billion (US$98 million).
In June 2017 a report appeared in the newspaper Swaziland Shopping stating that King Mswati and Gamedze had forced Swaziland’s government to side-line rival parastatal Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC) from competing with Swazi Mobile. It said King Mswati and Gamedze had shares in Swazi Mobile.
The African News Agency reported the editor of Swaziland Shopping Zweli Martin Dlamini received a death threat. It reported Dlamini saying, ‘Shortly after publishing the story, I received a threatening call from Gamedze that lasted for 20 minutes where he vowed to “deal with me”. Later Communications Minister Dumsani Ndlangamandla summoned me to a meeting and told me that the King was not happy with the story and had ordered that the newspaper should be closed.’
Swaziland Shopping was closed by the Swazi authorities who claimed that it had not been properly registered even though the newspaper had been published since 2014 with no problem.
Dlamini fled to South Africa fearing for his life.
Meanwhile, media in Zambia have been reporting on meetings between King Mswati and President Lungu to set up a fourth mobile phone company in Zambia to be owned by the pair using proxies.
Gamedze was murdered in full view at a petrol station on Sunday at about 7pm. A witness told the Swazi Observer, ‘He started walking towards his car and then a man, wearing a white cap, followed him towards the car. When Gamedze was about to open his car door, the man withdrew his gun and placed it on the side of Gamedze’s head and shot twice. The man didn’t say a word. He just shot him. Gamedze went down while the man started walking towards a red VW Golf car which had been parked by the waiting room on the left side of the road heading to Mbabane.’
The Times of Swaziland reported two men were involved. ‘One of the gunmen, at close range, aimed the gun to Gamedze’s head and pulled the trigger. As soon as Gamedze hit the ground, the same gunman again aimed the gun at another side of his head and fired the second shot,’ it said.
The Observer said, ‘At the scene of the incident, senior Police officer Mxolisi Dlamini told journalists that the shooting looked like one that was planned well in advance.’
Police later said suspects linked to the shooting had been arrested while trying to cross into South Africa through the Lundzi Border post.
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