Eswatini: Murder of Thulani Maseko is a “deplorable act of violence”

photo: ILAW Network

The ITUC deplores the murder of Thulani Maseko, a human and trade union rights lawyer and political activist in Eswatini.

He was shot dead in front of his family on 21 January at his home in Manzini by unknown gunmen.

From 2012 to 2015, Thulani Maseko defended the rights of the Trade Union Congress of Eswatini (TUCOSWA) following its deregistration by the government. Since then, he provided legal advice to the Eswatini trade union movement.

He was also the chair of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum (MSF) that represented progressive groups working for democracy in Eswatini following the banning of political parties. Eswatini is the only country in Africa ruled by an authoritarian, absolute monarch: King Mswati III.

ITUC Deputy General Secretary, Owen Tudor, said: “This is a deplorable act of violence that deserves international condemnation and action.

“The global trade union movement extends its deepest condolences to the family of Thulani Maseko and the people of Eswatini for this appalling loss of a great human rights defender and campaigner for social justice.

“We demand a full and independent investigation and no impunity: those responsible must be brought to justice.

“The Eswatini government must account for all the political killings that have occurred in the country since 2021. I call upon the UN Human Rights Council, the Commonwealth, the African Union, and the Southern African Development Community to act now, before more people are killed.

“The people of Eswatini want the basic rights of peace and the right to elect their national leaders. The government must engage in social dialogue with the trade unions, and all stakeholders, to address the challenges facing the nation.”

State-backed political violence is widespread in Eswatini:

  • Since a student protest in June 2021, more than 80 people have been reportedly murdered by security forces.
  • Many people, including trade union members, have been seriously injured in attacks on demonstrations by security forces, while others have fled the country and live in exile.
  • Two members of Parliament, Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube, have been in prison on false charges since 2021 following a public protest demanding good governance and a democratic state.
  • The ITUC sounded the alarm this month about recent attacks on trade unionists and pro-democracy campaigners.