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Calls for justice for slain Eswatini human rights defender

3 February, 2023On 3 February, South African unions from the Congress of South African Trade Unions and civil society organizations campaigning for democratic reforms picketed at the Eswatini Embassy in Johannesburg to call for justice and for an independent investigation following the assassination of Thulani Maseko, a human rights and social justice lawyer.

The speakers reiterated calls made earlier by various continental and global organizations including the UN Human Rights, the Commission on Human and People’s Rights - African Union, ITUC-Africa, and other pan African and global organizations.

Maseko, who was the chairperson of the multistakeholder forum for the democratization of Eswatini – a coalition working on democratic reforms through dialogue – and a member of the Lawyers for Human Rights Swaziland, was assassinated by unknown gunmen at his home in Manzini on 21 January in front of his wife and two young sons.

“Comrade Thulani was a person that we would go to for legal advice on labour rights on a regular basis especially as employers are notorious for dragging unions to court. We had a good working relationship with him that was characterised by mutual respect for our roles as leaders,”

says Wander Mkhonza, Amalgamated Trade Union of Swaziland (ATUSWA) secretary general.

Maseko also successfully represented the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), to which ATUSWA and Swaziland Electricity Supply Maintenance and Allied Workers Union (SESMAWU) belong, when it was deregistered and managed to get the federation reregistered.
The demands made in the unions petition to the Eswatini Embassy resonate with the IndustriALL Global Union resolution on the demands for democratic reforms in Eswatini which stresses that human and workers’ rights must be protected in Africa’s last absolute monarchy.

“We commit ourselves to support the people of Eswatini as they continue to fight for democratic reforms, and demand respect and protection of human rights including the right to life, rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association, and the rule of law,”

reads part of the resolution adopted at the IndustriALL Congress in 2021. In that respect IndustriALL calls for an investigation into the assassination as it is the responsibility of the government of Eswatini to guarantee the safety and security of its citizens.
Atle Høie, IndustriALL general secretary says:

“The killing of comrade Thulani Maseko is a dastardly act that comes at a time when it is urgent for the government of Eswatini and all stakeholders to commit to dialogue. IndustriALL reiterates our call for dialogue and demand an official investigation into the murder and prosecution of the perpetrators,”

ATUSWA and SESMAWU are affiliated to IndustriALL.