January 21 marks one year since human rights lawyer and opposition activist Thulani Maseko was brutally killed in his home in front of his wife and two young children in Eswatini. Maseko championed democratic reforms in Eswatini and played a key role in the country’s transitional political process amid widespread protests in June 2021.
One year later, Maseko’s killers have yet to be apprehended and there is no indication that the government has undertaken a credible investigation, despite a government statement on December 29, 2023, that the police are prioritizing Maseko’s murder and the killings of others following the June 2021 civil unrest.
Instead of providing answers to his family, the government’s statement made untrue, accusatory and defamatory remarks against Maseko’s widow, Tanele Maseko. This came after Tanele delivered a speech accepting the Outstanding Human Rights Lawyer Award on behalf of her late husband at the 2023 Magnitsky Human Rights Awards.
In her speech, Tanele spoke of the trauma she and her children experienced watching their husband and father killed before their eyes. She blamed King Mswati III for her husband’s killing and called for people to join the #JusticeForThulani campaign and support the Thulani Maseko Foundation, which continues Maseko’s legacy of promoting human rights and democracy in Eswatini.
Hours before Maseko’s murder, King Mswati III warned those calling for democratic reforms that mercenaries would deal with them. The government has denied allegations of involvement in Maseko’s killing.
Since his brutal murder, Eswatini’s regional and international partners and civil society organizations have repeatedly called on the government to conduct an independent, thorough, and impartial investigation. If investigations are indeed underway, as the government says, they should ensure transparency and accountability for the family instead of intimidating Maseko’s widow, who is merely seeking answers for her husband’s killing.