VICTOR GAMEDZE: THE MAN WHO REFUSES TO DIE

Incontrovertibly, the Swazi state has never been as efficient when dealing with criminal cases as it has been with the Victor Gamedze murder case. From the moment the former Swazi Mobile Chairman was gunned down at the Galp Filling Station in Zulwini on 14 January 2018 it was clear from the behavior of the law enforcement agencies that the state was attaching some modicum of seriousness in the investigation of the case.

Within a few days a man who allegedly shot Gamedze was apprehended in Johannesburg, South Africa. Sipho Shongwe, the Swazi businessman accused of having a hand in the murder, was rounded up later and subsequently denied bail at the High Court ostensibly because he was ‘a flight risk’.

There was a huge outcry at how the police and the judiciary treated Shongwe especially after being denied bail under controversial circumstances. Questions were asked how the state can go after Shongwe even after arresting the alleged killer. Worse of all the state made the trigger puller a state witness on the basis that he was allegedly sent by Shongwe to kill Gamedze! 

Surely, this served to explain how Gamedze was endeared  by those in power. Legal experts define this as a precedent case whose development is interesting to follow.

The last few weeks have seen interesting developments;  the state successfully bringing the alleged killer, ‘Ncaza’, from South Africa to testify against Shongwe. Again, there has been a huge public discussion emanating from the high security detail of ‘Ncaza’ when he appeared in court. People were speaking in hush tones about the weight of his testimony as seen by him wearing a bullet proof vest on the day of his court appearance. The case was subsequently shifted to 14 February 2022.

Ncaza

Already defined by The Bridge as "a trial of the century" the trial of Shongwe  has been controversial from the beginning. To understand the nature of the case one would have to start from the beginning: who is Victor Gamedze?

Victor Mfana Gamedze comes from a remote and dusty village of KaLanga in the eastern part of eSwatini where, like all young men in the village, he grew up playing soccer and emerged as a reputable athlete. His soccer prowess became a gift used to dwarf his lack of academic excellence. He could not go further in terms of education and started a football career at an early age. In a tribute by The Nation Magazine, shortly after his demise, the publication gave an insight as to how he got influence from the late Prince Mfanasibili who was a football administrator and club owner at the time. The Prince recruited Victor and moved him to town, got him a place to study at MDS high school in Mbabane because he wanted him to play for his club, Mbabane Dribbling Wizard.

Those who are initiated in the country’s politics will know how powerful Prince Mfanasibili was in the period after the death of King Sobhuza II in 1982. As head of Liqoqo and a strong and an influential Prince, Prince Mfanasibili defined the political direction of the country and became very powerful to the extent that some are of the view that he could have easily pronounced himself as head of state back then. It is said the prince was feared and that he saw everything as means to get more power, something he liked. Legend goes that he was always surrounded by ordinary men who would do anything on his command, a personality trait that would later define Victor Gamedze.

Upon retirement from an eventful career as a football player for Mbabane Swallows FC, Gamedze went to business through the support of the family of his wife, Princess Lungile – daughter of Prince Makhungu. This meant Gamedze’s departure from the Central Bank of Swaziland where he had a humble job as a messenger.

The late Victor Gamedze

His biggest break through was at the Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC) where he became a major supplier through his company, MVTel. When he took over the reins at Mbabane Swallows FC as it’s  Chairman the fortunes of the club changed. Gamedze had at the time rose to prominence and built a multimillion business empire and under its stable was to be  the country’s second mobile telecommunications network, Swazi Mobile. During this time, his football club, Mbabane Swallows FC, was becoming a powerhouse on the African football map, becoming the first Swazi football club to reach group stage in both the CAF Confederations cup and Champions League, under the new format.

There was, however, a lot of outcry bordering on how Gamedze was vicious in the manner he dealt with those he either did not like or who were perceived to be standing on his way in business or football. For him, money was a means to an end: power. He used his relations with royalty to gain close proximity to the king. He quickly mastered the art of manipulating the political system in his favour and understood that once you give money to the king you can get anything you want.

“He was like a friend to the king; they interacted like old high school friends each time they met. The King trusted his opinion on a number of issues,” says a close friend of Gamedze who spoke to The Bridge on condition of anonymity.

At one point the country’s former Prime Minister Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini told parliament that there was a mafia at SPTC and everyone understood him to be referring to Gamedze. However, the two later became friends and Barnabas could defend Gamedze with his body. The man had influence in cabinet, parliament, football, business and everything in the country rotated around him.

Former Prime Minister Barnabas

At the height of his ‘mafia empire’ he started stepping on the toes of many people, some of whom assembled into a powerful clique with the objective of toppling him. So serious was the scheming and plotting for Gamedze such that huge amounts of money and other resources were put aside to get rid of the man from Siteki because he was “becoming a nuisance.”

When he was gunned on his way from a football match on 14 January 2018 there were immediate rumours circulating about the assassination. There were a lot of speculations as to what might have caused his death. Boy, if you know you know! The mafia had been defeated. His memorial service was inside a stadium and during his funeral his village came to a standstill. His death became global news and the Premier Soccer League in South Africa observed a moment of silence during games. That is how powerful the man was.

The Bridge has it in authority that the king instructed the police to make an arrest before his funeral. The first man to be arrested was former Chairman for Matsapha United football Club and businessman Sipho Shongwe; he was accused of allegedly spearheading the assassination.

Sipho Shongwe

The man who allegedly pulled the trigger, Ncaza, was eventually arrested, together with one ‘Tata’ who was allegedly part of the team. The two of them were made state witnesses against Shongwe who is being accused of being the mastermind behind the death. This is what the public has been failing to understand. How do you go all out against someone who was not even on the scene, and use the one who pulled the trigger against a man who was not at the scene? This explains the power of the late Victor Gamedze. The king still wants answers and he is angry, so much so that the country’s Chief Justice had to run helter-skelter when Shongwe was granted bail. This was later reversed. Judge Sipho Nkosi who had granted the bail was later impeached.

Chief Justice Bheki Maphalala

As recent as last year state witness ‘Tata’ mentioned that three “nicely dressed men” came to their guesthouse before Victor’s murder to speak to them about the operation. These are highly influential men who held powerful roles in the Swazi society. It is believed that ‘Ncaza’ will name these men when he gives testimony. The Bridge has the names of these three men but will not be revealed for now pending the court process. Some of them have already fallen out of favour with royalty. Clearly, Victor Gamedze was no ordinary man and he is ‘refusing to die.’ What will be the outcome of this? Time will tell.