Eswatini: AfricanDefenders and SouthernDefenders strongly condemns the continued harassment of Tanele Maseko and her minor children by Eswatini Authorities

AfricanDefenders and SouthernDefenders strongly condemn the continued harassment of Tanele Maseko and her minor children by Eswatini Authorities on March 28, 2024, in Mbabane, Johannesburg, and Kampala. The Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network (AfricanDefenders) and the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SouthernDefenders) strongly condemn the unrelenting harassment of Tanele Maseko and her family. Around 21:50 hrs (SAT) on March 27, 2024, Tanele was advised at Ngwenya Border post, as she tried to have her passport stamped on entry into Eswatini/Swaziland, that her travel document was flagged as belonging to a wanted person. She was immediately detained and intensively interrogated before being conditionally released. The detaining officer advised that it had to do with their investigation of the killing of her husband, Advocate Thulani Maseko, who was gruesomely assassinated on January 21, 2023, in front of Tanele and their children in Eswatini. The arresting officer also advised Mrs. Maseko that she had instructions to immediately seize her mobile phone and passport even without a warrant of seizure or an appropriate court order. Tanele was also ordered to appear at the Manzini Police Headquarters on March 28, 2024, at 12 noon


“We are deeply concerned by the continued harassment of Mrs. Tanele Maseko by the authorities in Eswatini. The treatment that Mrs. Tanele Maseko and her children are receiving amounts to torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, which is totally banned under international law. The seizure of her passport is an arbitrary interference with her rights to freedom of movement and association. She is within her rights to campaign for justice and accountability for the killing of her husband. That campaign for justice and accountability cannot be criminalized,” said Hassan Shire, the Chairperson of AfricanDefenders and Executive Director of DefendDefenders.

These acts of harassment are clearly designed to cow Tanele from continuing to call on the government of Eswatini to ensure an independent, thorough, and swift investigation into the gruesome murder of Thulani. It is more than a year since Thulani Maseko was point-blank shot dead by three bullets in his home whilst watching television with his family. Since then, despite government claims, no one has been held to account for the shockingly brazen and heinous act. The arbitrary detention of Tanele follows a threatening statement, which was made in January 2024 by Eswatini’s Prime Minister after Tanele Maseko’s appearance at the 2023 Magnitsky Human Rights Awards to accept the “Outstanding Lawyer” prize on behalf of her late husband. In the statement, the Monarchy insidiously intimated that Tanele interfered with the course of justice by removing evidence at the crime scene. Earlier, in an interview, the government’s spokesperson, Alpheous Nxumalo, warned that Tanele’s “remarks” were treasonous.

“SouthernDefenders have previously strongly condemned recent public statements from the government of Eswatini seemingly threatening Tanele Maseko for demanding justice and accountability for her husband’s murder. Tanele Maseko is our Deputy Chairperson and a human rights defender in her own right. As a normal human being, she together with their children, are victims of the traumatic events of January 21, 2023, and need to know the truth for closure and healing,” said Prof. Adriano Nuvunga, the Chairperson of SouthernDefenders.

AfricanDefenders and SouthernDefenders would like to expressly show unwavering support for Tanele Maseko and her family. She has and continues to selflessly stand for the human rights of not only Thulani but others in the Kingdom who have been victims and survivors of arbitrary arrest, excessive use of force, harassment, and intimidation for advocating for political reforms in Eswatini. Thulani was the Chairperson of The Multistakeholder Forum, a leading Human Rights Institution. Declared a prisoner of conscience, Maseko had endured countless unlawful arrests on trumped-up charges linked to promoting, upholding, and defending the human rights of the people of Eswatini.

AfricanDefenders and SouthernDefenders are deeply disappointed and highly concerned by the continued harassment of Tanele and her family. These embarrassing Monarchy-sanctioned acts are not expected of a Kingdom that should be invariably exemplary to its citizens, supportive of a grieving widow and her family, and committed to the rule of law and accountability, ensuring that there is no place for extrajudicial killings in Eswatini. Justice for Thulani is long overdue, and the intimidation and smearing of his widow for seeking justice is unacceptable.

It’s now more than a year since the murder of Thulani. Despite regional and international calls for an independent, thorough, and expeditious investigation, the government of Eswatini has failed and/or refused to facilitate the same. The perpetrators have not been held to account. AfricanDefenders and SouthernDefenders remain committed to the pursuit of justice for Thulani, his family, and the people of Eswatini, and therefore:

1. Demand that the Monarchy stops harassing Tanele Maseko and her family and respect her right to continue to call for justice and accountability for the murder of her husband, Thulani Maseko.
2. Urge the authorities in Eswatini to return her passport and phone to her forthwith.
3. Continue to demand an independent, thorough, transparent, and swift investigation into Thulani Maseko’s murder.
4. Demand that the Kingdom of Eswatini refrains from the insolent use of force, intimidation, and threats against human rights defenders and other progressive voices and that efforts be directed towards addressing the outstanding democratic grievances prevailing in a restive society seeking reforms.
5. Strongly appeal to the international community and other civil rights movements to join us in seeking collective condemnation of the actions against Tanele Maseko, and justice and accountability for Thulani Maseko.

For additional information, please contact Washington Katema at [email protected] or +27736202608.