Thulani Rudolf Maseko a human rights activists in Eswatini was shot dead on 21st of January 2023 at his home, in his living room in front of his family members by unknown assailants. This news comes as a shock to many especially the civil society organization and the many individuals whose rights were championed for by Thulani.
He was a democracy advocate and a human rights lawyer who spent his life fighting for justice and the rights of the minority groups and people who had been evicted from their homes. Thulani occasionally advocated for democratic reforms and this led to his arrest on 18th March 2014 for contempt of court after criticizing the Swaziland judicial system. It is during this time while in prison, that he decided to write a letter to the former US president, Barack Obama where he mentioned the human rights violations in Swaziland, lack of democracy and silencing of advocates of justice.
In his letter he quoted President Barrack a number of times, but what stood out was the 2009 speech that Barrack made in Ghana: “But what America will do is increase assistance for responsible individuals and responsible institutions, with a focus on supporting good governance – on parliaments, which check abuses of power and ensure that opposition voices are heard… on the rule of law, which ensures the equal administration of justice; on civic participation, so that young people get involved; and on concrete solutions to corruption like forensic accounting and automating services… strengthening hotlines, protecting whistle-blowers to advance transparency and accountability”.
In July 2015, Thulani Maesko was released from prison after being declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. Since his release from prisoned he has continued to champion for democracy reforms until his demise. The news of his death came in a few hours after King Mswati III had publicly warned those calling for democracy those calling for democracy that his “mercenaries’’ will deal with them.
The murder of Advocate Thulani has been condemned by various civil society organizations and individuals. Among them is the International commission of Jurists Africa director Mr. Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh who said, ‘’We at the ICJ mourn and condemn the brazen killing of Thulani Maseko, a courageous and principled advocate for justice in Eswatini and Africa, and a frequent partner and longstanding friend of the ICJ. There must be accountability for this brutal killing, despite the prevalent impunity in Eswatini.
The European Union equally expressed their concern through a statement, “This tragic loss follows a series of killings, arson attacks and other violence that have destabilized the country in recent months.