Start main page content

Open letter on the killing of human rights defender Thulani Maseko

- Busisiwe Kamolane-Kgadima

CALS and over fifty other organisations and individuals have signed an open letter to the President calling for a statement on the killing of Thulani Maseko

Dear Honourable President Cyril Ramaphosa, Honourable Minister Bheki Cele, Honourable Minister Ronald Lamola and Honourable Minister Naledi Pandor


  1. We, the undersigned civil society organisations write to you to express deep concern regarding the continued repression and killing of human rights defenders and social justice activists in South Africa and throughout the SADC region.
  2. The recent murder of human rights defender Thulani Maseko in eSwatini has sent shock waves across the world. His death is a chilling reminder that human rights defenders are not free or safe to champion the causes that seek to bring positive change in society. This also comes at a time when civil society in South Africa continues to grapple with the assassinations of social justice activists Lindokuhle Mnguni, Ayanda Ngila, and Nokuthula Mabaso only a few months prior.
  3. As we mourn the death of Thulani Maseko, and many other activists who have been killed for daring to speak truth to power, we remember the incredible and brave man that he was. We honour his life and legacy and stand fully in support of the call for democracy and broader social justice reforms in eSwatini which he so fervently fought for.
  4. We support the statement released by the Southern African Development Community and supported by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission. This includes the call for the transparent and comprehensive investigation into the killing as well as dialogue in the resolution of political and other challenges faced by the people of eSwatini.
  5. We therefore call upon the South African government to release a statement condemning the killing of Thulani Maseko and acknowledging the widespread threats to the lives of activists across Southern Africa. We further urge the South African government to call for an independent and transparent investigation into the death of Thulani Maseko. Finally, we call upon the South African government to commit to coordinating with the relevant stakeholders a sub-regional response to the attacks and killings of human rights defenders in the SADC region.
  6. We remind you that the rights guaranteed in the Constitution and international treaties of which South Africa is a signatory to such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the U.N. International Convention for Civil and Political Rights demand that measures be put in place to ensure the rights to freedom of speech, peaceful assembly and protest are promoted and protected. This includes the rights of human rights defenders who should have liberty to express their opinions whether political or otherwise, without reprisal. Rights and freedoms in SADC countries are therefore under siege if human rights defenders continue to be killed for exercising them.

Yours faithfully,

  1. Centre for Applied Legal Studies
  2. Centre for Environmental Rights
  3. Women’s Legal Centre
  4. Section 27
  5. Open Secrets
  6. Right2Protest Project
  7. Bench-Marks Foundation
  8. Socio-Economic Rights Institute
  9. Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network
  10. Alternative Information and Development Centre
  11. Southern Africa Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power
  12. Mining Affected Communities United in Action
  13. Women Affected by Mining United in Action
  14. Lawyers for Human Rights
  15. Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement SA
  16. Freedom of Expression Institute
  17. Right2Know Campaign
  18. University of Free State Law Clinic
  19. The Peace Centre
  20. Public Affairs Research Institute
  21. Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
  22. Southern African Institute for Responsive and Accountable Governance
  23. Free State Centre for Human Rights
  24. Equal Education
  25. Legal Resource Centre
  26. Zabalaza Socialist Forum and Pathways Institute
  27. AntiRepression Collective
  28. WoMin African Alliance
  29. The Forge
  30. Cala University Students Association
  31. Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution
  33. The Rastafari Human Rights Institute in Azania/South Afrika
  34. Public Services International
  35. Just Associates Southern Africa
  36. The Green Connection
  37. National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa
  38. Prof Kelly Gillespie
  39. Prof Richard Pithouse
  40. Dr Sanele Sibanda
  41. Mr Buang Jones
  42. Prof Babatunde Fagbayibo
  43. Mr Jared Sacks
  44. Mr Mark Heywood
  45. Prof Jonathan Klaaren
  46. Adv Tembeka Ngcukaitobi
  47. The Right Reverend Rubin Phillip, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Natal
  48. Ms Rumana Akoob
  49. Mr Axolile Notywala
  50. Ms Fatima Shabodien
  51. Ms Moshibudi Motimele
  52. Prof Joel Modiri
  53. Prof Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni
  54. Ms Mandisa Shandu
  55. Mr Ntando Sindane
  56. Ms Phumzile Mtetwa
  57. Adv Sipho Mantula
  58. Dr Pedro Mzileni
  59. Prof Sandra Liebenburg
  60. Prof Lillian Chenwi