April 4, 2008

PUDEMO leader shot dead in South Africa

The deputy leader of Swaziland's banned opposition movement has been shot dead in South Africa, where he was living in exile. According to South African media Gabriel Mkhumane was killed in the northeastern province of Mpumalanga, which borders Swaziland.

Mkhumane was a medical doctor and served as deputy president of the People's United Democratic Movement, or PUDEMO, an outspoken critic of Swaziland's absolute monarch, King Mswati III.

Gabriel Mkhumane went into self-imposed exile in the 80s, and had been a doctor at Themba Hospital in Nelspruit. He had lived in Mozambique before settling in South Africa in 2000.

He was gunned down while on his way from attending a meeting at White River, which lies north of Nelspruit. The meeting had discussed issues around PUDEMO's planned border blockade in protest against "undemocratic situation" in Swaziland created by the 12 April 1973 Decree. The royal decree suspended the constituency and enforced emergency rule. Mkhumane's killers fled after shooting him in his car.

Mkhumane's death has caused shock among his colleagues - both home and abroad. The Swaziland Solidarity Network [SSN] said the late hero would be most remembered for many things: humility and kindness, his concern for the plight of the many poor Swazis, his fiery opposition, revolutionary spirits and denouncement of the autocratic regime. "He was a real people's doctor who provided many poor people free medical services," SSN said, extolling Dr Mkhumane's commitment and great combatant for his people. "He also left a living legacy as a family Doctor in Cuba." The SSN calls on the South African government to probe his death and leave no stone unturned to bring to book his murderers. (Voa News / The Swazi Observer, Swaziland)

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