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MANZINI – “The death of my husband is a cold case,” says Tanele Maseko.

Tanele is the wife of slain Human Rights Lawyer Thulani Rudolf Maseko, who was assassinated on January 21, 2023, while watching television (TV) with his two sons and wife.
The killer of the human rights lawyer reportedly executed the assassination with precision as he delivered the first shot just above the ear and with the second bullet pierced through his upper torso.


The wife of the deceased said she last heard or saw police officers regarding the murder days after it had occurred. She said since then, there had been no update from those investigating on possible suspects or the motive behind the assassination. “The demise of Maseko is just a cold case to me as there is nothing happening and I don’t see anything happening. To me this is just a cold case (sic),” she said. Worth noting is that a cold case is any criminal investigation by a law enforcement agency that has not been solved for (generally) at least one year and, as a result, has been closed from further regular investigations. On the other hand, Tanele expressed doubt on whether the execution of the human rights lawyer would be solved at all.
She said the last interaction with the police regarding the demise of her husband was just after Maseko had been killed. Thereon, she said there had been no communication whatsoever regarding the murder.

It is worth noting that following the murder of the human rights lawyer, a number of entities made calls that the killing be fully investigated and that those responsible be identified, prosecuted and punished. Among those calls, two stood out because they were made by the leading relevant regional and sub-regional African bodies. On January 23, 2023, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, urged the Government of Eswatini to ‘set up an independent inquiry to investigate the murder of Maseko with a view to apprehending, prosecuting and punishing those found responsible for his death’.  


The commission further called on government to ‘take legislative or other measures (institutional, administrative, policy and public awareness, among many), to ensure that human rights defenders were guaranteed the right to live a life free from the threat of violent attacks’. Subsequently, on January 31, 2023, leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), of which Eswatini is part of, called on the country to conduct a ‘swift, transparent and comprehensive investigation’ into the circumstances of Maseko’s death, and to ‘urgently initiate’ a peaceful national dialogue with pro-democracy groups as a means of strengthening democracy. Recently, during the Inaugural Lecture of Thulani Maseko at Esibayeni Lodge, the Director of the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria, Professor Frans Viljoen, said at the time of Maseko’s assassination, a government spokesperson cautioned against speculation, called for the police investigation to be allowed to go its course and expressed confidence that at the end, the truth would prevail.


Professor Viljoen asked; “Where does the investigation stand? What has it yielded? What obstacles have been experienced, if any, what measures have been taken to overcome these obstacles?  What are the next steps; and the nature of any ongoing investigation? What are the prospects of bringing those responsible to justice?” Furthermore, he said they also regretted that no investigation had been conducted on the much broader issue, affecting so many other people, emanating from the excessive use of force and violence by the police during 2021, in particular. He said they would also put this in an official letter to the government.

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