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Eswatini Authorities Target Activist’s Widow

Stop Harassment, Ensure Independent Investigation into Maseko’s Killing

A vigil decrying the assassination of Eswatini Human Rights Lawyer Thulani Maseko in Nakuru Town, Kenya, January 30, 2023. © 2023 James Wakibia/SOPA Images via AP Photo

On March 27, immigration officials at the Ngwenya Border post between South Africa and Eswatini stopped Tanele Maseko, widow of murdered human rights lawyer and opposition activist Thulani Maseko, along with her two young children and her helper while they were trying to enter Eswatini.

Immigration officials flagged Tanele’s passport as belonging to a wanted person and confiscated it along with her mobile phone. Officials then called the police, who interrogated Tanele for about four hours before releasing her pending an appearance at the Mbabane police headquarters on March 28.  

But after Tanele arrived at the headquarters Thursday, police delayed her further interrogation until April 2, after her lawyers challenged how many officials could interview her without a lawyer present. The police are now seeking legal advice about interviewing her without her lawyers. Throughout all this, however, officials have yet to provide the reason why Tanele has been labeled a wanted person to begin with.

Since Thulani Maseko was brutally killed in his home in front of Tanele and their children on January 21, 2023, the government of Eswatini has been unrelenting in what appears to be a harassment campaign against Tanele to dissuade her from pursuing justice and accountability for her husband’s murder and continuing his legacy of promoting rights and democracy in Eswatini.

Some media have published reports that Eswatini state forces are targeting and monitoring Tanele and her life may be in danger. On December 29, 2023, the government released a statement in which it made untrue and defamatory remarks against her.

Regional human rights networks have condemned Tanele’s detention and targeting and are calling for an independent and transparent investigation into Thulani Maseko’s killing. The government of Eswatini should ensure transparency and accountability for the Maseko family instead of harassing and intimidating Maseko’s widow for seeking answers to her husband’s death.

Authorities should stop retaliating against Tanele for raising awareness about the situation in which her husband was killed. It has been 14 months since Maseko’s murder and authorities need to demonstrate greater commitment towards apprehending his killers and ensuring justice.

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