About 278 human rights defenders from southern Africa, including Malawi, have condemned the assassination of eSwatini’s renowned human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko.
The activists through the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SouthernDefenders) have called for swift and through probe and urged the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) to urgently act on what they have described as an escalating political crisis in Eswatini.
Was shot dead on Saturday: Maseko
In a statement endorsed by 118 human rights bodies and 160 individual activists, the network expressed “pain and outrage at the brazen assassination” of Maseko, a founding member of SouthernDefenders.
The outspoken human rights lawyer was gunned down at point blank range on Saturday evening in front of his wife and children at his residence in the capital Mbabane.
The advocates observed the “atrocious, cowardly and cold-blooded act” came a few hours after eSwatini’s leader King Mswati III issued ‘stern warnings’ to proponents of democratic reforms and that his hired mercenaries would deal with them.
At the time of his death, Maseko was a senior member of Lawyers for Human Rights Swaziland, and chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum, a convergence of various stakeholders calling for constitutional reforms in Eswatini.
“Maseko made an immense contribution to the advancement of justice and human rights not only in eSwatini, but throughout the Southern Africa region.
“He has carried out several fact-finding missions to countries like Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi where he reported on the deterioration of civic space in the region,” reads the statement.
One of the signee, chairperson of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition chairperson Gift Trapence said as human rights advocate they had no doubt that Maseko was murdered due to his work and the quest for good governance and good democracy including “enjoyment of different rights of the people of eSwatini.”
“In fact, we are calling upon the United Nations and the international community at large to take up this issue and ensure justice is delivered,” Said Trapence.