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
The assassination and brutal killing in cold blood of the people's human rights lawyer and chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum (MSF) Thulani Maseko in Swaziland on the 21st January 2023 is a clear indication of the revolt, and concerted attacks against those who embody the ideals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Swaziland, and certainly those who stand against King Mswati's royal rule and unwaveringly continue to call for political reforms in the country. 
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) must take responsibility and concern itself with the dismal lack of strong political action to excuse its mandate of promoting peace and security in Swaziland and its refusal to decisively intervene on the inhuman injustices and merciless killings of our people. The people of Swaziland are subjected to terror and aggressive means both legal and illegal applied by King Mswati III, his government and his mercenaries as he proudly admits "Who started it".
Repeatedly, time and time again, the Mass Democratic Movement in Swaziland and non-profit organisations in around the world have reported evidence to SADC and specifically its organ TROIKA, the plight of the Swazi people under the tyranny of King Mswati III, and many have condemned and commented on it, however, SADC continues to undermine the dire situation faced by the people of Swaziland who are working for a peaceful resolve of the political transformation in the country. 
An exigency call has been made to SADC TROIKA to urgently apply the provisions of the protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, to protect and safeguard the Swazi people against the rising insecurity caused by the regime. 
The killing of Thulani Maseko is immoral, unjust, intolerable and has sparked fury in the nation. Thulani Maseko was not killed for what he did but what he stood for, a struggle for the peaceful removal of oppression and for the establishment of a just society in his country. 
To King Mswati III, as you continue to present the people of Swaziland as wild dangerous  revolutionaries, intent on disorder and riot, incapable of being dealt with in any other way but be killed, remember, no one, not even you and can stop an idea whose time has come. Your crimes against Emaswati are many and they will not disappear. The blood of our people on your hands will not be vain.
The people have resolved against your (Mswati) royal rule, and you will not shut the Swazi people with such stupid acts. Freedom will rain in our land and the people will govern. 
By: Thulile Dlamini

“These people started the violence first but when the state institutes a crackdown on them for their actions, they make a lot of noise blaming King Mswati for bringing in mercenaries”, these were the words uttered by the King of Eswatini while addressing regiments on the 21st of January 2023 at Engabezweni Royal Residence after the Incwala ceremony.

King Mswati III is famously known for being Africa’s last absolute monarch. The king is not only the head of state but also holds Executive, Judicial and Legislative powers in the country, and also serves as the Commander in Chief of the armed forces. Since the June massacre of 2021 the Kingdom of Eswatini has been on the verge of civil war due to the calls for democracy within the country. The dialogue proposed by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and promised by the king has been postponed since the end of the Incwala ceremony in 2022. Even with so many consecutive postponements the Eswatini Government still insists on their commitment to hold the national dialogue. “Government notes the need for national dialogue involving all EmaSwati. We reiterate government’s commitment to holding a peaceful, open, and fair national dialogue. Whilst noting the need to hold a national dialogue as soon as possible, however, with the continued spate of violent killings and arson attacks against innocent people the government is forced to consider the safety of the people first. The country’s leadership is working towards the restoration of law and order as we pave the way to a peaceful and open national dialogue.” said The Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Themba Masuku.

However, most people in the country believe the lack or postponements of the national dialogue are the root cause of the violence that has been plaguing the small land-locked country, and that further delays would only lead to more bloodshed. Most notably among the victims of the political unrest are 11 police officers and an undisclosed number of political activists and freedom fighters. The deaths of the police officers have been accredited to members of the pro-democracy underground forces that have identified themselves as the Swaziland International Solidarity Forces (SISF). However, the deaths of the political activists and freedom fighters are alleged to be perpetrated by the king and his government through state hired mercenaries, the army and the police. It is a widely spread claim that the king has been delaying the political dialogue with the hope that he would eliminate dissention by killing political leaders who are calling for democratic reforms.

Chief among the leaders alleged to be assassinated on instruction of the king by mercenaries is human rights lawyer and political activist Thulani Maseko, who at the time of his death was Chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum. Maseko was regarded as a uniting figure of the Swazi struggle for democracy and a champion for human rights on the continent. He was gunned down in front of his wife Tanele Maseko and children Nkosenhle (10) and Nkosivile (6) at his home in Luyengo. His death happened not more than six hours after King Mswati’s Incwala speech, where he threatened that those causing instability in the country will be dealt with, leading many to question the king’s involvement in the brutal murder of Thulani Maseko.

The Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Themba Masuku however, denied claims of mercenaries hired to kill political activists and other citizens. Addressing a press conference in Mbabane on the 26th of January 2023, regarding the death of Thulani Maseko, the DPM stated that “Government has noted with concern that there are individuals and organisations that are intent on spreading disinformation. These unfounded allegations of state sponsored killings and use of mercenaries are not true and are part of a campaign designed to promote hatred and disorder and thrive on distortion of information to fit a particular narrative. Government has not hired any mercenaries. However, there are security experts that have been engaged to assist with certain aspects of the country’s security issues.”  

One of these security experts is the man alleged by Swaziland News to be the leader of the mercenaries responsible for the death and disappearance of political activists, founder of Bastion Security, Arno Pienaar. A man who served in the South African army during the apartheid era and later worked in Iraq, speaking to the Sunday Times Pienaar confirmed that his firm has a security agreement with the king but denied any involvement with the alleged assassinations, stating that his firm only deals with training. “I could see that the security forces were totally untrained for the job of dealing with terrorists,” he said, and further stated that there are no freedom fighters in Eswatini, only terrorists. Pertaining to Maseko’s death Pienaar blamed the power struggle within the democracy movement “I have worked all over Africa, that’s how it works here. There is always in-fighting. There was no reason to kill him, he was not on our list of terrorists.” He said, however he did not care to elaborate how and why a security firm hired to train law enforcement would possess a list of terrorist.   

Human rights activist and writer for the Daily Maverick Mark Heywood nevertheless refutes the notion that there are terrorists in the country. Speaking to NewsRoom Afrika TV Heywood stated that “There’s no terrorism agenda in Eswatini, there’s an agenda for democracy and for human rights. There are no terrorists in Eswatini, there are activists, and the activists are being killed at the instruction of King Mswati III and members of his government who are seeking to protect their extreme wealth. Mswati is one of the richest men in the world, in one of the poorest countries in the world. The people of Swaziland are fed-up, they want a decent life, they have been protesting for democracy. Just over a year ago on June 29th, 2021, in those protests, more than a hundred people were gunned down by the Swaziland police and defence forces. As you and I speak today, there are two Members of Parliament (MPs) in Swaziland who are in prison, Members of Parliament, just because they were supporting the democracy movement in that country. So that is what Mswati calls terrorism.”

No matter how Mswati and his cohorts twist and turn the facts of what is happening to political activists in Eswatini, the truth shall not be buried for ever, there will come a time when the tables will turn and the king will be publicly exposed for who and what he is – a murder, an oppressor, a dictator and a genocidal maniac. The activists in the diaspora including us at Swazi Vigil UK, we say “Aluta Continua…” we will not stop protesting against the violation of human right in Eswatini and against the murderous activities of King Mswati… we say “Phansi ngaMswati phansi!!!!” (Down with the Mswati). Viva Swazi Vigil Viva!!!!!