Democracy ALERT: Tanele Maseko, Prominent Eswatini Human Rights Defender Detained and Harassed by Eswatini Authorities

March 29, 2024

On March 27, 2024, Tanele Maseko, a prominent Eswatini human rights activist and widow of the esteemed lawyer and human rights advocate Thulani Maseko, was detained for questioning by Eswatini authorities. Tanele Maseko has been identified as a “wanted person” in the investigation into her husband’s murder. Along with her two minor children, she was held for four hours before being released. Tanele and her family now face movement restrictions within Eswatini, and her mobile phones have been seized. Tanele has been summoned for further questioning on March 28, 2024, and once more on April 2, 2024. Notably, the police are not permitting her legal counsel to be present during the questioning – a fundamental violation of her rights.

Thulani Maseko’s life was tragically cut short in a violent act on January 21, 2023. Since this heinous crime, there have been no arrests, prompting Tanele to tirelessly advocate for justice and accountability, not only for her husband but for all human rights defenders facing threats in Eswatini amidst calls for democratic reforms.

In recognition of her late husband’s unwavering commitment to human rights – a legacy marked by his own arbitrary detentions – Tanele received the “Outstanding Lawyer” award at the 2023 Magnitsky Human Rights Awards. Her acceptance speech, which cast a spotlight on Eswatini’s dire human rights situation, elicited a threatening response from the nation’s Prime Minister.

The World Movement for Democracy strongly condemns the ongoing intimidation and harassment faced by Tanele Maseko and her family. The World Movement stands in unwavering solidarity with Tanele and joins the voices of civil society partners in the region calling on Eswatini authorities to stop the harassment and arbitrary detentions of human rights defenders and foster peaceful engagement for addressing grievances and demands from those seeking reforms. The Movement also calls for an independent and transparent investigation into the murder of advocate Thulani Maseko.