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KALUHLEKO – Thulani Rudolf Maseko’s wife reportedly tried to warn him of a gunman near the window, just a split second before he was assassinated.

It has been gathered that the warning by Tanele Maseko (wife to the deceased) coincided with the gunman firing the gunshots towards the human rights lawyer, who was aged 52.
According to family members, the deceased chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholders Forum (MSF), succumbed to three gunshot wounds, which were aimed and fired towards him on Saturday night in a cold-blooded murder. This was said to have happened at around 9:10pm.

The assassination happened at KaLuhleko, which is a community located about 50 kilometres south-west of Manzini and about six kilometres from Bhunya. The family members, who were identified as elders of the Maseko family to this publication’s reporters, said two of the bullets were aimed and pierced through the head of the deceased while the third reportedly penetrated his upper abdomen on the left hand-side and exited from the right, leaving his body with a gash almost a tennis ball size.


The bullet which pierced through the upper abdomen was said to have first grazed his left arm before cutting through his stomach and landing on the screen of a television set. On the other hand, the family members said the two bullets, which were aimed at Maseko’s head, pierced through it just beneath the ear while the other penetrated his temple. This callous assassination reportedly took place while the deceased was seated with his wife and their two sons aged 11 and seven. It was gathered that just before the shooting incident, Tanele, who was seated opposite her husband, saw the unkown gunman near the window. One of the elders said their sister-in-law had informed them that while they were watching television, he noticed a person outside an open window lifting a gun and aiming it towards the human rights lawyer. The family members said the deceased Thulani was shot while watching television with his family in a compound that he had reconstructed for his mother.


He said following the demise of Maseko’s mother, the lawyer shuffled between the two homesteads, which are less than 50 metres apart. The deceased’s next-of-kin said he received telephonic communication informing him that Maseko had been shot dead. As he choked from tears, the relative said witnesses who were first to arrive at the Maseko residence, said they gathered that Tanele had informed them that she had seen the gunman preparing to shoot Maseko, but could not be in a position to recognise him. Avoiding eye-contact, as his eyes were a well of tears, the relative supposed that as Tanele was alerting Maseko of the gunman, the assassin aimed at the deceased and with precision, the gunshots were fired. He supposed that an assault rifle was used in the assassination.

The relative said due to the excessive heat that had been experienced in recent days, one of the windows was opened in order to allow fresh air to circulate within the house. He said the gunman took advantage of the open window and aimed the gun through the lace curtain. The lace curtain was seen by this publication’s reporters with two bullet holes. Meanwhile, the relative said following the shooting, the gunman disappeared into the thick of the night. However, he said the family had noticed that the assassin was alone in the compound when executing his mission. Thereafter, the family member said the deceased’s wife wailed inyandzaleyo, which is a distress call for help. He supposed that while doing so, Tanele banged on a window, which shattered in the process. He said the deceased’s wife also placed phone calls to relatives residing within the rural community of KaLuhleko.

At this point, he said some community members heard the distress call and rushed to the homestead to establish what had happened. The family member said the witnesses, who most were relatives of the deceased, found Maseko bleeding profusely in a slumped position on the couch. Choking from tears, one of the relatives said: “Thulani died for standing up for the truth and we are of the view that he died for his political beliefs. The deceased was a straight talker and believed in dialogue.”  The family member said as they were cognisant of the violence in the country, they did not believe Maseko’s life would be ended with a gun. He said the family had not at once suspected that Maseko would be the first to be a target of these killings.


Meanwhile, leading to the cold-hearted murder, a witness residing in one of the nearby homesteads reportedly saw a dark coloured sedan driving in a stretch of gravel road leading to the human rights lawyer’s home, among other compounds. The deceased’s compound is about 1.2 kilometres from the Mhlabubovu – Bhunya Public Road. The witness, who was one of the first people to arrive at the residence of the murdered human rights lawyer, said at around 8:50pm, he took a break from watching soccer on television and walked to his lobby for fresh air. This, he said, was during the half-time break of the South African Premier Soccer League (PSL) match between Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns. During the half-time intermission, the eyewitness claimed to have seen a dark-coloured sedan driving towards the Maseko residence.

He said what made the vehicle noticeable was that the dirt road it was driving through led to a few sparsely constructed homesteads, which included that of the deceased’s. The witness said out of curiosity, he looked at the sedan and it made a U-turn near a stream which was closer to Maseko’s homestead. Thereafter, the witness said a person alighted from it while the sedan drove back. He purported that he could not identify the model of the vehicle as it was at a distance. He said his sixth sense had made him uneasy and sought to notify neighbours about the individual who had alighted from the vehicle along the way; but could not do so as he did not have airtime to make the call.


After the vehicle disappeared, the eyewitness said the passenger disappeared into the thick of the night and within some minutes; which he estimated to be not longer than 20 minutes; there were three loud thuds which pierced through the still of the night. Thereon, the witness said the gunshots were followed by a call for help from the Maseko homestead, which was when he armed himself with a bush knife and walked towards the homestead. As this was happening, it was gathered that other nearby neighbours heard the echo of the distress signal while some were telephonically contacted and notified of the shooting. Upon their arrival, the witness said they found that Maseko was soaked in blood in his face, shirt and pants. This publication’s reporters found the couch on which Maseko was said to have been seated before being shot, removed from the house and put outside, on the lawn. Sections of it were covered in blood, while also the carpet from the house was folded and kept near it. 

Meanwhile, another resident who was walking towards a vigil within the community said he heard the distress call and discarded his journey. He estimated to have arrived at the homestead of the deceased about 10 minutes after the shooting. The community member claimed that from that moment, efforts to contact the police were made. These efforts were said to have fell through as they could not get through to the Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS) toll free number 999/9999.  It was said thereon, various efforts were made, including requesting different people to contact the Bhunya Police Station. It was alleged these efforts did not succeed such that a family member riding a motorbike was requested to physically report the incident to the police at Bhunya. The community member estimated that the biker was requested to report the murder about 40 – 45 minutes after it occurred.


He further disclosed that when the biker reached the main road, he found a dark-coloured sedan – BMW – and questioned its driver on why he (motorist) was parked along the road at night. The community member claimed that the motorist purported that he was a resident and was waiting for someone. Thereon, the motorcyclist was said to have continued with his journey to the Bhunya Police Station, where he reported the murder and returned with the police about 20 minutes after his departure. However, it was gathered that upon his return from the police station, which is about 10 kilometres away, they did not find the dark-coloured sedan. They were said to have proceeded to record statements about an hour after the shooting.
The eyewitness and community member requested to remain anonymous in light of prevailing violence situation in the country.

Meanwhile, the Maseko homestead had mourners, who worked with the deceased human rights lawyer, arriving as early as 3am. Some of the mourners are part of the mass democratic movement (MDM) of Swaziland. They were found seated in groups with community members who, among them, were senior citizens. Some of the mourners were seen frequently wiping tears from their eyes as they were distressed by news detailing the demise of the human rights lawyer.

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