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
SALC CALLS ON 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; 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.