Maverick Citizen


Leaders from across the world gather to remember peaceful human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko

Leaders from across the world gather to remember peaceful human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko
Human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko's wife Tanele at his memorial at the University of Pretoria. When Maseko was imprisoned in 2014/15 Tanele had travelled around the world calling for his release. (Photo: Leon Sadiki)

Last Friday the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria hosted a moving memorial service for assassinated Swaziland human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko. It became a rare coming-together and expression of pan-African solidarity and anger at the betrayals by former liberation movements.

The service was attended by Maseko’s wife Tanele and his two young sons. Delegations travelled from Botswana and Swaziland.

The great respect with which Maseko was regarded was borne out by the calibre of those who paid moving tributes to him. They included veteran Zimbabwean lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, who former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke (also a speaker) called “the most courageous person in southern Africa”.

Former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke paid a fulsome tribute to Maseko. Moseneke recalled Maseko as a clerk at the Constitutional Court . “I had something to do with his formation”, he recalled proudly. Referring to “Thulani’s moment”, Moseneke said we “should not let the Swazi government rest” and he told mourners “we must have thought through a strategic plan to hold the Swazi government accountable” relating how he had just assisted in reworking the Lesotho constitution to recognise a “constitutional monarchy”. “There’s no reason why the people cannot govern in Swaziland,” said Moseneke. (Photo: Leon Sadiki)

Earlier, Mtetwa had told a briefing of foreign diplomats that “the international community must come out hard over his killing or this will happen to all human rights activists in the region”.

Read in Daily Maverick: 

Thulani Maseko’s murder exposes the political wrangling hobbling Eswatini’s march to democracy

Ramaphosa and SADC leaders call for ‘swift’ investigation into Thulani Maseko’s assassination

In addition there were two United Nations special rapporteurs (on human rights defenders and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association), representatives of lawyers associations, activists and Mlungisi Makhanya, the president of Pudemo, a prohibited movement in Eswatini. DM/MC

Thulani Maseko memorial

Methodist Bishop Paul Verryn opened with a prayer during human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko’s memorial service at the University of Pretoria. He said ‘Maseko’s legacy will not be silenced’ and prayed that ‘in the middle of the night when the killers seek their peace, God will disrupt them, take them into the pain they have caused, disrupt their equanimity’. (Photo: Leon Sadiki)

Constitutional Court Justice Jody Kollapen spoke about the warmth and generosity of Thulani Maseko, noting that 2023 is the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Maseko had dedicated his life. (Photo: Leon Sadiki)

Thulani Maseko’s wife Tanele spoke about the pain she has endured as a result of her husband’s murder. (Photo: Leon Sadiki)

Former Gauteng High Court Judge Jody Kollapen reads the programme during the memorial service. (Photo: Leon Sadiki)

Zimbabwean human rights lawyer and programmes director for Open Society Africa, Siphosami Malunga (right), pays an angry tribute to his friend Thulani Maseko. Malunga recalled how, in 2022, Maseko had arrived without warning to observe Malunga’s own trial in Zimbabwe where he is being persecuted by the Zanu-PF regime. He told mourners: ‘We must stop telling people how to react to acts of violence. The Swaziland government has crossed the line. You can’t sweet-talk a tyrannical regime.’ On his left is advocate Pansy Tlakula. (Photo: Leon Sadiki)

Portrait of a kind, humble and peaceful man: Thulani Maseko’s fellow activists said he was always concerned with the security of others, but never his own. He would joke darkly that ‘if they come for me they will find me in my home’. Sadly that is where he was murdered. (Photo: Leon Sadiki)

Advocate Pansy Tlakula, former chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), pays tribute to human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko. She said that ‘Africa has failed Thulani’ and complained about how, during her tenure at the ACHPR, ‘we were ridiculed most of the time’ for presenting reports about human rights ‘… nothing was done with all the reports we presented about Swaziland. With Thulani’s murder the talking must stop… we’ve been talking a long time now.” (Photo: Leon Sadiki)

Beatrice Mtwetwa during the memorial service for Thulani Maseko. (Photo: Gallo Images / OJ Koloti)


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