Times of Eswatini

Human rights defenders attacks concern SALC


MBABANE – In light of the commenceme­nt of the 36th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the AU, SALC notes with grave concern the growing trend of attacks against human rights defenders, political activists and journalist­s in the region.

The 36th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union and the 42nd Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the union will be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, between February 15 and 19, 2023.

The Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) is calling on the AU to address the deteriorat­ing state of civil and political rights in the region by ensuring Zimbabwe and Eswatini, in particular, comply with their obligation­s under the African Charter.


In its statement, SALC highlighte­d that in Eswatini, prominent Human Rights Lawyer Thulani Maseko was brutally assassinat­ed on January 21, 2023 and his assassinat­ion came less than 30 days after an attempt on the life of another Human Rights Lawyer in Eswatini, Maxwell Nkambule, who remains in hiding, fearing for his safety.

Also highlighte­d was that it has further been almost two years since two elected Members of Parliament were taken into custody, on what seems to be politicall­y motivated terrorism charges after voicing their constituen­ts’concerns on the country’s governance. These are Hosea Member of Parliament (MP) Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Ngwempisi MP Mthandeni Dube.

The statement from the organisati­on also highlighte­d that in September 2022, authors Tsitsi Dangarembg­a and Julie Barnes were found guilty


Address the deteriorat­ing state of civil and

political rights in the region by ensuring Zimbabwe and Eswatini, in particular, comply with their obligation­s under the African Charter; Engage the Eswatini and Zimbabwe government­s

● in advance of their national elections this year to ensure that they are conducted freely and fairly;

Condemn the harsh response by its member

States against those peacefully protesting and for political reforms;

Ensure that States adhere to the Declaratio­n

of Principles on Freedom of Expression; and Ensure adequate adherence to the African

Union Agenda 2063, which envisions a universal culture of good governance, democratic values, gender equality, and respect for human rights, dignity, justice, and the rule of law.

of contraveni­ng the Zimbabwe Criminal Code for participat­ing in a ‘public gathering with intent to incite violence’ and were sentenced to a suspended six-month jail term.

“Their crime, participat­ing in a peaceful protest and holding placards with the words, ‘we want better, reform our institutio­ns’ and ‘free our journalist­s’. Most recently, the police used force on a gathering of opposition party members and arrested 25 of them as the country gears up for elections,” reads the statement.

The clampdown on peaceful protests by citizens voicing concerns over corruption, bad governance and the deteriorat­ing economic and political crisis in the region has worsened, according to SALC.

The organisati­on revealed that there was an increase in the violations of the right to freedom of expression for citizens with dissenting views and the use of arbitrary arrests against activists, journalist­s and protesters. “The continued harassment, targeting, violence, kidnapping, persecutio­n, killings and incarcerat­ion of those critical of their respective States spells a dark time for human rights in Africa. The African Union (AU) must find solutions to this trend and institute meaningful reforms to prevent States from wilfully criminalis­ing dissent and, in some instances, attempting to silence voices of critique under the cloak of terrorism,” revealed SALC.


Government Spokespers­on Alpheous Nxumalo, in response to the SALC statement, said first and foremost, government would not entertain all these same questions from the obviously biased and canvassed so called regional and internatio­nal organisati­ons such as SALC.

He said in any case, attacks the thugs were carrying out in Eswatini were not only directed to the so called ‘human rights defenders’ but to many other emaSwati. “By the way, a question can be posed also, these so called human rights defenders are defending who, which human rights and against who? Many emaSwati have been gunned down in this country using the mafia style, but they belonged to other categories such as chiefs other than the myopic descriptiv­e ‘human rights defenders’ tag,” he said.

Nxumalo further said silencing of guns referred and cuts across all categories, and as a country they would like this topic discussed in its broad spectrum for there was no life that is more worthy of living than the other.

“This is the basis concept of human rights every life matters and every life is equal,” he said.

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