It’s been six months since a prominent Eswatini human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, was murdered in cold blood in front of his family. The killers are still unknown and the motive for killing him is still a matter of speculation.
Political activists and the broader civil society insist that Maseko was assassinated by state agents because of his human rights activism and work. However, the government has repeatedly denied any involvement in Maseko’s murder.
In a statement issued a day after Maseko was killed, Eswatini government spokesman Alpheus Nxumalo said that security forces were “already working to search for the killers”. Since then, however, neither the government nor the police have provided an update on the progress of their investigation.
Consequently, the failure of the police and government to take the nation into their confidence regarding the progress of their investigations has led to hypotheses about the motives behind Maseko’s murder.
While some in the legal fraternity believe it could have been part of what is increasingly looking like a coordinated state crackdown on human rights lawyers, some political activists believe the motive may be found in a document published by the Swaziland Multistakeholder Forum (MSF) in December 2022.
The forum, chaired by Maseko, is an organization of civil society, religious and political groups, and has been at the forefront of calls for democratic reforms since the unrest in June-July 2021.
Read more at The Daily Maverick: One year after the Eswatini massacre – lest we forget
From 16-18 December 2022, Médecins Sans Frontières met at eBundu in Mbombela, Mpumalanga, to “reflect on and decide on important political issues affecting [Eswatini]”.
The organization released a document titled “eBundu Declaration”, making 11 declarations or action points.
One ad read: “We reaffirm our position that we will not participate in the 2023 Tinkondla elections and will undertake an anti-election campaign that will guide all our anti-election activities.”
In addition, the organization declared:
“We will continue to demand and fight for people’s democratic control of the state’s resources, including mineral and natural resources, as well as reclaiming Tibeo and claiming land restitution in defense and protection of the dignity of the people.”
Furthermore, MSF called for “the formation of a transitional authority to take care of state affairs while we work to establish a popular, democratically elected government.”
These statements are said to have ruffled the feathers of those in the upper echelons of power in Eswatini. It is understood that MSF’s call for a provisional government was interpreted by the authorities as calling for the overthrow of the monarchy.
Maseko first called for the formation of an interim government in 2021, immediately after the unrest that killed 46 people, according to a report by the Eswatini Human Rights Commission. Day 10 October 2021 the Eswatini Times mentioned That “the formation of a transitional government was part of [the MSF’s] Plan”.
after a week, Eswatini Prime Minister Cleopas Dlamini told reporters that[u]In no way can a provisional government be formed and any such assertion is misplaced and has no basis in fact and law.”
We have heard that some people are calling for an interim government. Dlamini stressed that Eswatini is a sovereign state, with a legal governance structure headed by His Majesty the King and assisted by the three arms of government, namely the executive, legislative and judicial branches.
Moreover, by invitation Tibeo Taka Ngwane In order to benefit the masses rather than be a royal cow, it is understandable that MSF, and in particular Maseko, have shaken the cage of the monarchy.
Tibiyo is a multi-billion rand conglomerate established in 1968 by the late King Sobhuza II through a royal charter. In the beginning, Tibiyo was more like a sovereign wealth fund but later turned into an investment company for the royal family.
Read more: Royal Riches – The King’s Work – Inhlase
The company is a major shareholder in most major industries in Eswatini, particularly in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors. Its board of directors is appointed by the king and is accountable to him – not the government.
Elections scheduled for September 2023
Furthermore, by calling for a boycott and sabotage of the parliamentary elections scheduled for September 2023, it is understood that MSF and in particular Maseko were seen as a security threat by the Eswatini authorities. In Eswatini, parliamentary elections are held every five years but there is no legislative framework enabling political parties to participate.
Aspiring parliamentarians can only stand as independents. The nomination process in the Royal Corrals takes place under the watchful eye of the traditional authorities (chiefs) who can influence the electorate not to nominate candidates seen as disloyal to the president and those seen as anti-monarchist.
Read more at The Daily Maverick: Mswati III – Terrorizing the Living and the Dead for Freedom of Speech and Expression in Eswatini
Political activists and a larger section of civil society view these elections as undemocratic. However, the government has held them religiously every five years since 1993, presumably to convince the international community that having the Tenkundla system of government was compatible with democratic values.
During election season, security forces are usually deployed to intimidate rioters, protect polling stations, and ensure the entire electoral process is smooth and incident-free. Hence, some activists believe that by calling for a boycott of the elections, MSF and its president, Maseko, could have been branded as potential disruptors that should be nipped in the bud.
Perhaps the state saw him as the glue that held the mass democratic movement together, and so he was eliminated.
MSF’s general secretary, Sikila Dlamini, said they had never believed that MSF’s statements could be interpreted in some quarters as a call for the overthrow of the king.
When we published this document, we wanted to inform our members of our program of work. But on the sidelines of some jobs, we often meet with diplomats, and they always ask us whether our call for a provisional government falls short of a coup. This just goes to show that people misunderstood what we meant by calling for a provisional government.
He added that they, as MSF, believe that the theory alleging that Maseko could have been eliminated because of MSF’s statements could be true.
The Thulani (Masiku) was a well-mannered and peaceful man, who could not harm a fly. He was a skilled lawyer who could not engage in activities that would get him into trouble. He added that the state probably saw him as a sticky substance holding together the mass democratic movement, and therefore he was eliminated.
Meanwhile, King Mswati’s spokesman, Percy Simelan, said: Daily Maverick The king’s office did not respond in any way to MSF’s call to form an interim government. “We usually oblige [to] A constitution for political direction and administration, not individual or organizational opinions on the street, adding that Eswatini’s electoral system is in line with the best in the world.
Read more at The Daily Maverick: Lawyers live in fear as the Swazi state ramps up crackdown on activists
In this country, we the people are free to nominate and vote [representatives] In Parliament, unlike situations around the world where leaders of political parties impose themselves on the electorate.
When asked if the highest office in the land had done anything to get the detectives to speed up the investigations into Maseko’s murder, Similan answered in the negative.
“In this country we do not push police or intelligence detectives to investigate crimes lest we disturb the fishing nets, as was the case with the South African Police Service, who were pressed and arrested the wrong person after [Orlando] Pirates goalkeeper Senzo Miiwa was assassinated. [Additionally] “We know of a case that took about 18 years to solve in the UK, which involved a serial cop rapist,” Similan said.
On July 19, 2023, the Eswatini Times Quoted by Tanele Maseko She said her husband’s death had become a cold case.
The dead wife [lawyer] She said she last heard or saw police officers in connection with the murder days after it occurred. Since then, she said, there has been no update from those investigating the possible suspects or the motive for the assassination..
The post further quoted an Eswatini police spokesperson, Superintendent Findele Vilakate, as saying that Tanele was welcome to contact the police for an update on the investigation into her husband’s murder.
International human rights groups and human rights advocates have called for a transparent investigation into Maseko’s killing. in likeAmnesty International said the statement of February 23, 2023“The Eswatini authorities must promptly, thoroughly, impartially, independently, transparently and effectively investigate the killings and bring to justice anyone suspected of responsibility. The victim and his family must have access to justice and effective remedies.” DM
The author’s name has been withheld because his life could be in danger if they are identified. The identity of the author is known by the editor of Maverick Citizen.