Thulane Maseko was a Swazi Human Rights lawyer who was working tirelessly to promote justice and human rights in Eswatini, the Southern African region and beyond.
On the 21st January 2023 King Mswati III warned those calling for democracy that his mercenaries would deal with them, and the evening of the very day - the 21st of January 2023 - Thulane Maseko was gunned down at close range, shot through the window of his home, in front of his family. The killing of Thulane Maseko appears to be a deliberate targeting and silencing of the lawyer and human rights defender, in direct retaliation to his legitimate work in defence of human rights.
Thulane Maseko had already been targeted in the past, he was arrested in 2014 and prosecuted and sentenced to 2 years in prison, following the publication of his opinion articles denouncing the lack of judicial independence in the country. During his detention he was subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment. The targeting continued even after Thulane Maseko was released in 2015 after he was declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.
Thulane Maseko continued his work, including acting as a lawyer for many human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists in Eswatini. In 2021 he was one of the early legal representatives of the currently detained members of Parliament, Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube who are also subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment. Thulane was an advocate for justice and human rights. His killing is a great loss and a massive blow to the human rights movement in eSwatini and beyond.
King Mswati’s government is systematically delaying a political dialogue while assassinating political leaders and activists. Eswatini’s Monarchy is strongly opposed to political reforms and activism. Since May 2021 the Kingdom of Eswatini has been rocked by pro-democracy protests following the mysterious death of a law student Thabani Nkomonye allegedly at the hands of police.
Political activists have been suppressed for years by the Kingdom of Eswatini Government. The Tinkhundla government have used repressive laws including the 1938 Sedition and Subversive Activities Act (SSA) and the 2008 Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA) to silence critics.
More and more pro-democracy activists are disappearing at the hands of police and more were shot and killed by the police. Defending human rights is not a crime. Under no circumstances should activists or human rights defenders, working for a better world be subjected to intimidations, threats, violence and murder.
Thulane Maseko must not be failed in death, and those responsible no matter who or how powerful they are, must be held responsible and accountable.
The Swazi Vigil UK will not stop protesting against the violation of human rights and the killings in Eswatini. Down with Tinkhundla government system!! VIVA Swazi Vigil UK!!✊🏾
By: Rainny Nomvula Dlamini