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MATSAPHA –Zundithwale nakaloku Ngezongalozobubele, ndiziphosakuwe Nkosi Yesundiphuthume, (carry me always with your hands full of love, I submit myself to you Lord Jesus take charge).

The above Xhosa lyrics from a Methodist hymn book were sung by slain Human Rights Lawyer Thulani Maseko’s wife Tanele, during her husband’s memorial service at Esibayeni Lodge in Matsapha yesterday. In a rare act of bravery and courage, Maseko’s wife personally addressed the over 3 000 mourners who had come to pay their last respects to the renowned attorney and human rights activist. Among those in attendance were diplomats and representatives of international bodies such as the United Nations (UN), European Union (EU), United States (US) Embassy and the United Kingdom (UK). Political organisations across the mass democratic movement in Eswatini were also represented, together with family and friends of Maseko. Members of the Law Society of Eswatini were also part of those who came to mourn the late lawyer.

Maseko’s wife, who spoke from her seat, was covered in the usual black mourning veil and wearing an all black outfit. Upon receiving the microphone from the programme directors, Tanele, who was born a Thwala, started the Methodist hymn, and sang in a strong voice before addressing the audience. “January 21, 2023 marks the day I witnessed the gruesome murder of my best friend in our safe space and in the comfort of our home. That night I felt like my chest has been opened and my heart ripped apart. In my little mind I cannot bring myself to believe that you are gone my love and you shall not return. I cannot even believe that the boys and I have been robbed of the love of a father and protector. I can’t even begin to think of what the next step after everyone has left, leaving us to the reality of our loss,” she said.

Tanele further thanked the late Maseko for giving her a warm and loving family and for always providing for her and the children. She said Maseko made sure that the children were getting the best kind of education, for them to become noble citizens. She said she would remember Maseko’s gentle kiss on her forehead and the smell of rooibos tea which he loved making. She requested to speak on the three different faces of her husband, which included being a father, a political leader and a prisoner. “My sweetheart, the love of my life loved me so easy, so honestly, openly and free. He accepted me the way I was and became patient with me. He was my comrade, my chairperson and leader. He was my prisoner and when he got arrested the first time he told me to memorise his prison number so that I could identify him with those numbers. So as I bid farewell to prisoner 353, 438 and 579 of 2014 I want to say Ngiyabonga cabani (thank you comrade) that you stood and you even said on that day that they will find and kill you here and you won’t go to exile,” she said.

Thwala said Maseko defeated jail until he was killed and he never shied away or avoided it. She said his killers resorted to assassinate him because they knew he was always one step ahead of them. “Khubonye WaNdlovu (clan/praise names) rest in peace and please stop your habit of being too quick to forgive. Stop your diplomacy, you must fight there. You need to fight, I beg you because I know you are always quick to forgive, your killer should not find peace. Let your blood which was shed on Saturday and your brain that was spattered on the night liberate the people of Eswatini,” she said.

Speaking at the memorial service, Tanele’s family thanked Maseko for showing his wife love and for a true husband who never ill-treated or abused her. The Maseko family representative Phuza Maseko encouraged the mourners to celebrate Thulani’s life, because he was now gone and there would be no other opportunity to spend with him. There were jeers as he sent condolences to government. Members of political parties booed and made noise (jeers) and it was not ascertained why they were opposed to it. “Though he was very resilient and highly opinionated to the world and his opposition, to us he was a humble brother.We will remember him and will always see all the places he used to sit at. We are still shocked as to why did Thulani have to die through the barrel of a gun. Why wasn’t he arrested and taken to justice. After so many years of fighting for peace and justice, he was given death as a form of appreciation,” he said.

Phuza further said the family was still committed to the call for negotiations and would denounce violence in all forms. He said they would honour Thulani by continuing with the calls for a peaceful settlement. Phuza added that Thulani was killed by a professional assassin, who knew what to do. “He did not feel any pain as the person who shot him was an obvious professional. Can someone help us understand why he had to go like this,” he said. The EU, UK, US and UN representatives also addressed the audience and called for an independent investigation of Maseko’s death. Maseko was killed by unknown people last Saturday night while sitting in his living room watching a televised football match. He was the chairperson of the Multi-stakeholder Forum (MSF) and also a long-serving member of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO).

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