Human Rights Lawyer Thulani Maseko arrested

THULANI MASEKO speaking at SALO's first Policy Dialogue on Swaziland - October 2009
THULANI MASEKO speaking at SALO’s first Policy Dialogue on Swaziland – October 2009

Longtime Human Rights Lawyer, pro-democracy activist and Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) lawyer Thulani Maseko was arrested the 17th of March 2014 outside his Mbabane office. The arrest was due to an opinion piece authored by Maseko and published in the Nation Magazine (read full article here: THE ARTICLE THAT GOT HIM JAILED – By THULANI MASEKO), in which he accused the judiciary of Swaziland of paying lip-service to the promises of fighting corruption. He goes on to critique the current Rule of Law in Swaziland, stating that the constitution “…was not meant to protect and defend the rights of the weak in our society, but to entrench the interests and privileges of the powerful.”  Maseko’s piece was a response to the arrest of Bhantshana Gwebu, the Government Chief of vehicle inspections. Gwebu was appointed to fight corruption, but was held nine days in custody charged with contempt of the court, after he initiated the arrest of a driver of Judge Esther Ota, a High Court Judge. His bail was finally paid by the National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU).

This is not the first time that Maseko has spoken out against the political elite of Swaziland, as he on multiple occasions has represented pro-democracy activists in the Swazi courts. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), of which TUCOSWA is a member, is addressing the issue in an urgent letter to Prime Minster Sibusiso Dlamini, calling the government of Swaziland to “refrain from arresting and detaining trade unionists for exercising their legitimate rights and to unconditionally release Thulani Maseko and Basil Thwala”. Thwala, a member of Swaziland Transport and Allied Workers Union (STAWU), was arrested after he allegedly tried to flee to South Africa while still under bail in Swaziland.

It goes without saying, that this is not the first time that the Swazi Government has attacked the pro-democratic movement in Swaziland and especially TUCOSWA has been a frequent victim. In April 2013, the union was de-registered by government in an attempt to pull away its legal foundation.

Klaus Kristensen