By Bongiwe Zwane – Maseko
Throngs of emaSwati gathered at Esibayeni Lodge on Saturday to pay their respects to the late Thulani Maseko who was killed last weekend.
Attendees of Maseko’s memorial service included but were not limited to the church, members of the proscribed People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), members of the diplomatic corps, the Law Society of Swaziland (LSS), United Nations representative, EU and US Ambassadors.
Among the first speakers to speak at the service was a representative of the Maseko family who notably told the attendees: “Please feel free to do whatever you want to do as you bid Thulani farewell. This is your last opportunity to pay your respects to him in a manner that you see fit.”
The representative went on to say Maseko was a people person who stood for the truth.
“His killing cuts deep. We will constantly see the spot where he was killed and that will continue to cut even deeper. If Thulani had done wrong, why was he not hauled before a court of law and we call on the government to help bring the perpetrators to book”.
Tenele Maseko, wife to the deceased said: “I witnessed the murder of my best friend in the safety of our home. I will be forever grateful for your love and support. My boys and I were in safe hands. Thulani was my leader, my prisoner and my comrade. He refused to go into exile, saying he would die in his home and indeed, that is what happened. Please sleep well but continue to fight beyond the grave. Your death should not be in vain.”
A United Nations Representative said: “We cannot avoid anger and bitterness. Thulani did not deserve to die in this manner. He was one of the first people I met when I came to Eswatini about 9 months ago. He believed in non-violence. We have lost a voice of reason. I urge that we remain focused on our goal for greater peace and stability”.
The EU representative said Maseko was an outstanding human rights defender who had a bold vision for this country. “The EU strongly condemns Thulani’s assassination. We call for the protection of all citizens, including political activists. We call for an inclusive national dialogue, facilitated by SADC”, the EU said.
On the same note, the UK High Commissioner Simon Boyden said he recently learnt a lot from Maseko, whom he hosted about two weeks ago. He said he hoped the killing would open doors to a dialogue at different levels.
Other speakers included the US Embassy representative, Sidumo Mdladla from the Law Society, and Barnes Dlamini, a friend of the deceased. Mdladla said lawyers are angry, hurt and asking themselves what is going on.
“The rule of law guarantees the right to life but Thulani was denied that. They killed Thulani in the privacy of his home, with his wife and children present. This is nothing short of cruel. Thulani had a deep love for justice. He was transparent, consistent and hated violence. He will be missed dearly by all his learned friends”, he said.