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Dictators serenade each other



PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s cosy relations with tainted dictators, dodgy companies and questionable wheeler-dealers has come under the spotlight.

This week, he is serenading Africa’s last absolute monarch, King Mswati III of Eswatini.

Mswati — whose government is yet to come clean over the cold-blooded murder of human rights lawyer and activist Thulani Maseko — rides roughshod over civil liberties in his country, ruling with impunity. Maseko cannot die in vain.

His “crime” was that he was a courageous human rights defender, lawyer and state critic who refused to turn a blind eye to the government’s oppression of the people of Eswatini. On 21 January, he was shot and killed by unknown gunmen at his home in Luyengo, Mbabane.

As Amnesty International and other global human rights goups have rightly demanded, the Eswatini authorities must promptly, thoroughly, impartially, independently, transparently and effectively investigate the killing and bring to justice anyone suspected to be responsible.

The victim and his family must be provided with access to justice and effective remedies.
There has been no justice for Maseko and his distraught family. The world has a moral responsibility to ensure that the perpetrators of this heinous crime are brought to justice.

King Mswati this week jetted into Zimbabwe on a state visit, after which he would attend the Transform Africa Summit (TAS) held in Victoria Falls and also accompany Mnangagwa to officially open the 64th Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) in Bulawayo.

Bizarrely, Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs secretary James Manzou said the visit is set to strengthen bilateral cooperation, tourism, agriculture and investment.

As we report in these pages today, while the Foreign Affairs ministry says Zimbabwe is “happy” to welcome Mswati, his negative regional human rights footprint has sparked an outcry, especially as Zimbabwe heads towards general elections which have been underlined by violence against opposition.

Mswati has been brutally intolerant of dissenting voices in Eswatini.  

While the motive behind the unlawful killing of Maseko remains unclear, there is every reason to believe that he was attacked in relation to his work as a human rights lawyer and defender as he regularly stood up against the state’s abuse of power.

Prior to his death, he chaired the MultiStakeholders Forum, a group of political parties and civil society groups calling for democratic reform in the country. He has previously been targeted by the state for demanding justice and criticising the country’s judiciary.

Maseko had also taken a case to court against King Mswati over his decision to rename the country Eswatini by decree.

Notably, Maseko was killed a day after King Mswati III reportedly said in a public address that those who are calling for democratic reform in the country would be “dealt with”.

Surely, it cannot be mere confidence that, Hours before Maseko was murdered, King Mswati criticised activists pushing for reform, saying, “People should not shed tears and complain about mercenaries killing them.”

Mnangagwa has no business serenading such a leader.

It will be remembered that Mnangagwa in January this year hosted yet another controversial character, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a man described as Europe’s last tinpot dictator.

Mnangagwa himself has a soiled human rights record. But he is tarnishing Zimbabwe’s already tattered image and must stop entertaining vile characters.

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