South African trade unions plan a blockade of the border gate with Swaziland at Oshoek on Friday (11 May 2018) in an ongoing campaign for the release of Amos Mbedzi.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) are leading the protest.
Mbedzi, a South African, was sentenced to 85 years and six months in jail (with 25 years to be served) in Swaziland in 2012 after conviction by the Swaziland High Court on five charges including sedition and murder.
He had been arrested following an attempt to blow up a bridge near the Lozitha royal residence in September 2008. Two people with him died from injuries caused when the bomb exploded prematurely.
King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, had been expected to use the bridge later in the day.
Judge Bheki Maphalala said Mbedzi, ‘was engaged in violent revolution to overthrow the State’.
Mbedzi was described at the time by the AFP news agency as a 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 are banned from taking part in elections.
The sentence caused outrage among pro-democracy groups who see Mbedzi as a victim of King Mswati.
The People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), a pro-democracy organization banned in Swaziland, called Mbedzi’s sentence, ‘an open expression and declaration by the royal regime of its unwillingness to accommodate diverging views on the country’s political direction and future’.
The Communist Party of Swaziland called the attempt to blow up the bridge, ‘a brave and principled act of struggle against the illegal Mswati regime’.
The Swaziland Solidarity Network said of the sentence, ‘This is a clear declaration of war to the forces of democracy in Swaziland. When people are left with no option to protect their human rights, they are bound to explore all possible means to realise them.’
AMOS MBEDZI FULL JUDGEMENT
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