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KALUHLEKO – The death of Thulani Maseko raises more questions than answers.

The Times SUNDAY investigation team went to the scene of crime at KaLuhleko in Bhunya where the human rights lawyer and chairperson of the Swaziland Multi-Stakeholder Forum (MSF) was killed – at his parental home. Relatives, friends, workmates and colleagues in the legal profession were found at Maseko’s homestead on Wednesday asking questions that weren’t meant to be answered. In any investigation, criminal or otherwise, they say the first call is the scene of crime. The location of Maseko’s home could pose a risk to an assassin attacking with a loud sound rifle because of close neighbours who could respond. Our investigations unearthed that the person or persons who killed Maseko was or were, probably, prepared to take the risk in case of a foil in the plot to assassinate the human rights lawyer. This is due to the fact that the unpaved and bumpy road leading to the deceased’s home is about a kilometre from the tarred one connecting Malkerns/Luyengo to Bhunya.


It meant, therefore, according to observers and analysers, the person who killed the MSF chairman was aware that he would have to run fast to the getaway car, presumably a black BMW, parked adjacent to the main road. Information given to the team on the ground was that the killer walked out of the homestead after gunning down Maseko. What about the risk of being caught by neighbours while walking or say running to the getaway car? It was still around 9pm and some people were presumably awake by that time. As the mystery of who could have killed Maseko deepens, it has become apparent that his killer could have been a trained assassin. Traits of the killer, as described by Maseko’s relatives, that formed part of his standout features were the precision and knowledge displayed in the assassination of the globally recognised attorney. According to relatives found at the Maseko homestead on Wednesday, the assassin displayed great poise and discipline that could only be attributed to high intensity training.


His character, calmness and swiftness as he carried out the murder before disappearing into the thick of the night left the relatives and community shocked. The Cambridge Dictionary defines an assassin as someone who kills a famous or important person, usually for political reasons or in exchange for money. It is suspected that the killer used an assault rifle, which usually has an intermediate cartridge, a detachable magazine, and can switch between semi-automatic and fully automatic fire. This kind of a firearm needs special training, which could be likened to the military. The assassin ruthlessly planted two bullets, almost at the same time, piercing through the left side of Maseko’s head and coming through the right before landing on the television screen he was watching. Only an expertly trained assassin could have skilfully carried out the shooting with such precision, considering the darkness and his position outside the house.  

Our own investigation revealed that the killer could have been standing near the widow behind the couch where Maseko, his wife and children were sitting watching television. It was further established that he needed to be elevated, or be a bit taller for him to get a clear aim at Maseko. Another version is the possible use of a telescopic sight to mark his target. A telescopic sight is defined as a small telescope mounted on a firearm and it usually gathers light to brighten the image, uses mirrors and lenses to magnify the target, and remove aligning rear and front sights. The telescopic sight would not have only been for accuracy, but to assist him as such a sight is much better in dim light or near darkness. A telescope sight would work even if the rifle and shooter would be in total darkness, as long as the bare outline of the target was discernable.

trained killer

The third and last bullet grazed Maseko’s left arm and bore through the rib cage to come out on the right side. This was another feature of a trained killer, who knew when to lower down the rifle to hit the correct spot on the side of his chest. The meticulousness of the shooter and manner in which he targeted critical body parts of the deceased showed the skill of the person who ended the life of Maseko. One relative, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “The shooter could only be someone who has been here at home several times before. He had enough time to scout the place and scan the vicinity before carrying out the execution.” The relative confirmed the position and set-up of the lounge where Maseko was shot dead. Research shows that most public figures that were successfully killed had their assassins successfully establishing the firing point prior to the act of shooting.

The assassin reportedly left no clues after the shooting and there were no cartridge shells except for the bullets that went through Maseko’s head and chest. In professional hits, the assassin’s safe evacuation after the act is usually important and contact with other people should be as limited as possible. According to information gathered from some of the relatives who arrived at the Maseko homestead earlier, there was no sign of the assassin except for a black BMW vehicle parked closer to the main road assumed to be his getaway car. The techniques employed in assassinations vary depending on the victim’s awareness or unawareness of the danger and whether he is guarded or unguarded. According to reports published earlier, Maseko was aware of the threat on his life and even changed places on the night he was killed. It was revealed that when he arrived at his home situated about 50metres from his parental homestead, he refused to sleep on suspicion that someone had been walking around his house.


The assassin was vigilant enough to know that he might change houses and was able to carry out the act. A study conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the United States of America (USA) reflects that when the decision to assassinate has been reached, the tactics of the operation should be planned, based on an estimate of a situation similar to that used in military operations. “An effective tactical plan is usually crafted after all necessary data has been collected and all planning should be mental; no papers should ever contain evidence of the operation,” reads the study report. The study further reflects that during the assassination, where the subject is unaware, the murder would be termed as ‘simple’ and where the victim was aware but unguarded it would be termed as a ‘chase’. The technique would also be affected by whether or not the assassin was to be killed with the subject hereafter. If the assassin is to die with the subject, the act would be called ‘lost.’ If the assassin is to escape, the adjective would be ‘safe.’ It should be noted that no compromises should exist on this and the assassin should not be apprehended after the act.

The technique is further defined by the need to conceal information that the subject was actually a victim of assassination, rather than an accident or natural causes. If such concealment is desirable the operation would be called ‘secret.’ If concealment is immaterial, the act would be called ‘open.’ Where the assassination requires publicity it would be termed ‘terroristic.’
Following these definitions, the assassination of Thulani Maseko could be described as simple, chase, open and terroristic. A security expert who spoke on condition of anonymity said there was a possibility that Maseko’s assassination was termed as ‘lost’ by those who hired the assassin.  He said in such cases where the killing was politically motivated, it was usual for the handlers to ‘clean’ their act by personally executing the assassin immediately after the hit. Crime scene analysers say the killer is indeed a risk-taker as he was faced with four escape-routes, which could have culminated in his apprehension. The first threat to his escape was his walk or the run to the getaway car, followed by whichever direction he was to take upon reaching the main road.


If he decided to escape through the Bhunya-Sandlane Border Post (SZ/RSA – Nerston) MR19 Road, there is a police station ahead. It is at Bhunya. There are police officers at Sandlane Border Post alongside an army camp. In the event he chose to take the Bhunya-Mhlambanyatsi Road, there is a police post ahead. It is located at Mhlambanyatsi. There are possibilities that there are CCTV cameras at Montigny that cover the distance to the road. Another escape route could have been the Luyengo/Malkerns route where there is frequent police movement at night. There is also a police station at Malkerns. It could not be ascertained if an alarm at the nearby police stations was raised to keep officers on high alert. Say he escaped through the Mankayane route; there is also a police station there. How did he escape? This is a fundamental question that police investigators are reportedly trying to answer with a mountain of evidence.

Other unanswered questions that are mind boggling among family members are:
* How did he know that Maseko will spend time at his parental home?
* How did he know that he will sit next to an open window? 
* Why didn’t he wait for him at his marital home, which is 50 metres away from his parental home?

During the week of his demise, Maseko worked from home, so they say: What was preventing him from going to his office? Does it boil down to the theory of premonition of death?
Last Saturday, Maseko did go to his office, accompanied by his wife, meaning there was a need for him to go there after all. Finally he went to the office on that Saturday, a day before he was killed. On the issue of Sakhile Maseko, who disputed evidence by a certain online publication, which implicated police officers in the Forensic Department, it has been learnt that he (Sakhile) responded to the crime scene. He is a blood relative of Thulani. In fact, a family member said Sakhile reported the shooting to the Bhunya Police Station.


Chief Police Information and Communications Officer Superintendent Phindile Vilakati said the law enforcers were still investigating the circumstances surrounding the murder of Maseko. She appealed to people with information leading to the arrest of the suspect to relay such crucial leads to Manzini Regional Crime Branch Officer (RCBO) Thabo Hlophe at 7606 8572. Amnesty International’s East and Southern Africa Deputy Director Flavia Mwangovva suggested this week that the investigation into Maseko’s killing should be carried out by authorities independent of the government. Maseko’s memorial service was held at Esibayeni Lodge yesterday. He will be buried today at his parental home at KaLuhleko, Bhunya.

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