Africa-Press – Eswatini. Tanele Maseko’s Attorney Sibusiso Nhlabatsi says Thulani Maseko’s death is allegedly a joke to the Eswatini Government.

This follows reports that government presented possible clues to the European Union (EU) Parliament on the possible killers of Thulani, who was a Human Rights Lawyer. The government responded to the EU Parliament joint motion for a resolution on the situation of human rights defenders in the Kingdom of Eswatini, notably the murder of Thulani. The EU Parliament filed the motion on February 15, 2023. In a letter to the President of the EU Parliament, Roberta Metsola, dated August 22, 2023, government expressed commitment towards ensuring that Thulani’s killers were apprehended and brought to justice. It was stated that in the letter received by the EU Parliament, government undertook to conduct a full and transparent inquiry into the killing of the human rights defender.

The State pointed out that the prime suspects in Thulani’s killing were the militants responsible for other political killings. Four theories were listed, which, according to government, were in the public domain, through the media and social media. The theories, according to the letter, are leadership dispute, contract killers, political rivals and land disputes. According to Nhlabatsi, it is painful to read what government told the EU Parliament. He said it was clear that to government, Thulani’s death was a joke. Nhlabatsi said the theories were created from the day Thulani was killed and they were still clinging onto them. He explained that it was crystal clear that there would be no justice for Thulani from government’s perspective. “Other options are under consideration to ensure though that there is justice for Thulani. The world deserves to know who killed him,” Nhlabatsi said.


On the leadership dispute, government said Thulani was a senior member of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), a political party that was formed in 1983 and has been the main opposition to the government for more than 40 years. Government said Thulani had considerable support within the party and extensive international support, and he had also gained the support of civil society through the Multi-Stakeholder Forum (MSF). The State told the EU Parliament that Thulani supported dialogue with government and opposed a more militant faction in PUDEMO and their participation in organising the June 2021 riots and subsequent killings. Government said he openly supported one of the founders of PUDEMO to take over the party. It was stated in the report with the EU Parliament that PUDEMO elections were to be held in November 2022, and it was considered a foregone conclusion that this bid would succeed with the support of Thulani.


The State disclosed that there had been allegations that Thulani might have been killed to neutralise his support for the bid to bring new leadership to PUDEMO. On contract killers, government told the EU Parliament that there had been allegations that Maseko might have been killed by contract killers, because he controlled PUDEMO’s funds through his law firm’s trust account. According to this theory, Thulani had refused to release funds to pay them for recent killings, which had been allegedly ordered by the rival militant faction of PUDEMO.

“Withholding funds for the activities of the rival militant faction has also been suggested as a motive for his killing,” government stated in its report to the EU Parliament. On political rivals, the State’s theory suggested that there had been allegations that he may have been killed because he stood in the way of a rival political party called the Swaziland Liberation Movement (SWALIMO), which was involved in the riots of June 2021.

Government said Thulani was a leading figure in PUDEMO and carried national and international support through the MSF, the Political Parties Assembly (PPA) and other organisations. The State mentioned that Thulani was expected to play a significant role in the direction and outcomes of the national dialogue, which would have put SWALIMO at a considerable disadvantage in their quest for political power. It is stated that PUDEMO had indicated that they would disrupt the 2023 General Elections, while SWALIMO had expressed intent to contest the elections. This was not absolutely clear because of disagreements between the factions within these parties. The government report stated that SWALIMO had also experienced the killing of political rivals.

Government alleged that when one of their leaders (responsible for collecting and keeping arms and ammunition for SWALIMO), announced that he intended to break away from this movement with a colleague to form a new party called Swazis First Democratic Front (SFDF) because they were unhappy with its authoritative leadership style, he was abducted, tortured and killed. Government said his colleague’s home was burnt down. This is an obvious reference to Muzi Mmema. His killers have not been arrested as well. Furthermore, another government theory was on land disputes, whereby they told the EU Parliament that there had been allegations that Thulani might have been killed because of his involvement in a number of highly charged land disputes around his homestead by people who had been dispossessed of their land or were facing the possibility of losing their land. Nhlabatsi also represents Thulani’s wife, Tanele Maseko, who was accused by the police of refusing to release Thulani’s two cellphones to investigators. The two cellphones, according to the Crown, potentially hold key information on Thulani’s killers. Tanele Maseko has also been accused of not being cooperative in the investigation of the shooting of her husband.


The police also alleged that Tanele was refusing to bring Thulani’s children to be interviewed by investigators. Tanele went to court where she is, among other prayers, seeking an order that the national commissioner of police be ordered to provide a report or statement detailing what, if any actions were taken to view, download, save or alter in any way or form any item, setting or ordinary function whatsoever of her cellphone. Tanele’s cellphone was, at the time, in the possession of the police, after she was detained while entering the country through the Ngwenya Border Gate.

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