Picketers called on the South African government and the Southern African Development Community to take action against the killing of activists in the region.
Angry activists picketed outside Parliament yesterday under the banner of the Right to Say No Campaign to call for justice for slain lawyer Thulani Maseko and for democracy in Swaziland. Maseko was gunned down at his home in front of his kids in January this year.
They lit white candles, held up flowers and placards that read: “Mercenaries must leave Swaziland”, “Stop land disposition” and “Stop killing activists”.
Mathews Hlabana, the Right to Know Campaign organiser, said: “The number of our comrades who have had their lives violently taken for resisting transnational corporations and anti-democratic regimes in our region is staggering.”
He cited leaders of Abahlali Basemjondolo and Amadiba Crises Committee who have been assassinated recently. “We cannot remain silent,” said Hlabana. “While expressing solidarity with the democratic forces in Swaziland, we also call for an independent investigation to hold accountable the killers of Thulani Maseko.”
Hlabana also called for an end to repression, the release of political prisoners and democratisation of Swaziland “so that political plurality can prevail.” “We are committed to developing sustainable people’s alternatives and propose a popular socio-economic project that puts people and the environment first, rather than greed, destruction and profit,” he said.
Hlabana said mining corporations from across the globe would gather in Cape Town from Monday until Friday for the annual Mining Indaba. “The purpose of the Indaba is to serve as a platform for these companies to promote extractivism and discuss how they will continue to thrive and profit in the mining sector,” he said.
Hlabana said the discussion takes place “while millions of people suffer the severe social and economic consequences of destructive mining and extractivism.” The mining indaba happens “when southern Africa is experiencing severe ecological crises, and its people are affected by rising temperatures and other climate-related hazards.”
Cebile Dlamini, a leader of the Swaziland Rural Women’s Assembly, said: “We have lost our husbands and sisters. Each and every day people die and those responsible are not arrested. No one is held accountable for the murders.”
She said Maseko was a lawyer whom activists approached when they had problems and he followed up their issues. “The state hires mercenaries from South Africa. That’s why we are here to call upon the government to do something. We call upon SADC to take action,” said Dlamini. Rural women, she said, are calling for inclusive dialogue.
“We were perceived as a peaceful country, but now we live in fear,” she said.
Bongiwe Mafuya, a member of Bhanca Environmental Justice Movement, said she and other activists gathered outside parliament to honour Maseko. “He fought for the freedom of activists, our land and minerals. We say rest well Maseko. We know we are also being hunted down,” she said.