Human Rights Lawyer Maxwell Nkambule has reported fresh threats on his life to the police.
On December 7, 2022, Nkambule escaped unhurt after gunshots were fired at his car while returning from Big Bend to consult some of his clients. After the incident, the human rights lawyer described it as an assassination attempt, linked to his work as a legal representative of a number of suspects facing charges under the Suppression of Terrorism Act of 2018. In an interview yesterday, Nkambule said this month a drone was flown over his homestead for hours at night.
“Such threat has been followed by nightly visits by unknown men. It started with a double cab bakkie and now it is a sedan, which arrives in the middle of the night, parks at the gate and the four men split in double and survey the place and come to casually and comfortably camp at the gate for an hour or two before leaving,” said the human rights attorney. He said he had since alerted the police on this. “What I fear most is vigilantism. If my neighbours would be caught in the crossfire, I would not be happy. I have been assured by concerned friends that they will keep watch and I am afraid if my worst fears are proven right on the identity of the people who are threatening my life and that of my family,” said the lawyer.
Nkambule went on to state that he kept on asking himself if it was a crime to defend certain people in the Kingdom of Eswatini. “I repeat to the nation, that my only sin is to defend certain figures, who in the eyes of the perpetrators are already guilty even before the court pronounces. I appeal that we let the law take its course,” said Nkambule. He said most disturbing was that the charges levelled against his clients were allegedly politically motivated. He said his clients remained innocent until proven guilty. Asked whether he was still representing the accused persons who were allegedly found in possession of explosives and the others, Nkambule responded to the affirmative. He said he was still representing the accused persons in all of the matters.
Human Rights Lawyer Maxwell Nkambule, who survived an attempted assassination, has gone to a place of safety outside the country.
In an interview with this publication yesterday, Nkambule said, following the shooting incident in broad daylight last Wednesday, he had left the country for safety reasons.
He did not reveal his whereabouts but insisted that he was safe and comfortable wherever he was. Nkambule said it had sunk in his head how close he was to death and he was taking it one day at a time. The human rights lawyer told this publication that he was aware that the people who were behind his attack were still following him. Nkambule appreciated those who assisted him as he received help from both his local and international networks. He assured all those who were genuinely concerned about his safety that indeed he was safe.
Nkambule said he would come back to do what he was trained for and did not think that any of his matters would be affected by his absence. He stated that he would continue facing them until the end as he still believed that the attack was linked to his work as a legal representative of a number of people, who faced charges under the Suppression of Terrorism Act of 2018. He emphasised that he would come back and handle those matters and even new ones that may arise. In a previous interview, on the day of the incident, Nkambule said no form or amount of intimidation would sway him from doing his job. The lawyer warned other lawyers like him to be very careful as they may be a target as well. “We have to be careful now because we don’t know when and how they are going to hit,” said Nkambule.
He said his attack was an eye-opener to everyone, especially human rights lawyers. One of the cases in which Nkambule is appearing is that of the three men, who are alleged to have killed members of the State security forces. The accused in this matter are Ncamiso Mabuyakhulu, who is a member of the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO), Philani Sihlongonyane, a member of the Swaziland Liberation Movement (SWALIMO) and their co-accused, German Robert Dlamini, whose political home is uncertain. They are facing 29 counts under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. Nkambule’s other clients are the two men who were arrested after being found with explosives and army uniform. He also represents the three men who are accused of burning the Ngudzeni Inkhundla building. These are Bongani Goodman Mamba, Bongumusa Kenneth Kunene and Sibongiseni Hoshoba Shongwe. The Law Society of Swaziland (LSS) expressed its concern about the reports of the alleged attempt to take Nkambule’s life.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa led a ZANU PF election war room team that tried to deport to prominent Human Rights Lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa to her country of birth Swaziland during the height of the 2013 harmonised election campaign.
This was revealed by exiled Professor Jonathan Moyo in an expose’ on Econet Boss Strive Masiyiwa on Thursday.
Said Moyo, ” The full 2013 poll group had: Emmerson Mnangagwa (who chaired it), Dr Sydney Sekeramayi, Patrick Chinamasa (deputy chair), Nicholas Goche, Gen Constantino Chiwenga, Augustine Chihuri, Happyton Bonyongwe, Walter Tapfumaneyi, Kizito Gweshe, George Charamba and Jonathan Moyo.
“The group’s overarching agenda was to: 1. Contain Sadc mediation, so it does not derail 2013 elections. 2. Ensure that Parliament is dissolved by 29 June 2013 and elections are held soon thereafter. 3. Get Econet and diamond companies to fund elections to avoid UN funding.
“Besides the three-pronged agenda, there were other daily issues that cropped up. One was a report that lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa had blocked a police raid on Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s Bath Rd offices in Belgravia. The group decided to have Mtetwa deported but this failed.”
Beatrice, a past president of the Zimbabwean Law Society, was arrested for “obstructing or defeating the course of justice”. She was arrested in Harare on 17 March 2013 after she asked to see the search warrant of police officers who were conducting what she called an “unlawful, unconstitutional, illegal and undemocratic” search of the home of her client.
Former Swazi political prisoners Bheki Makhubu and Thulani Maseko have demanded multi-million rand settlements from King Mswati’s government for wrongful imprisonment.
Makhubu, a newsmagazine editor, and Maseko, an attorney, were tried together and jailed for 15 months from March 2014 until the Swaziland Supreme Court freed them in June 2015, two weeks before their scheduled release.
The court ruled they should not have been convicted in the first place, but stopped short of declaring their incarceration a fulfillment of a personal vendetta by former Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi.
“(Makhubu’s) case was widely reported by the Swazi and international media and he was depicted as a convicted criminal. In addition, he was forced to spend 15 months away from his work and family,” stated Makhubu’s letter of demand prepared by his lawyers.
Makhubu wants R3,65 million from government, claiming R2,35 million for malicious arrest, prosecution and detention, R500,000 for defamation of character, legal costs and R800,000 for emotional trauma, shock and discomfort.
On 21 September, L4L, together with the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) and Judges for Judges (J4J), submitted a joint report for the 2nd cycle of the Universal Periodic Review of Swaziland.
In addition, the organisations are concerned about the apparent lack of independence of the judiciary resulting in a violation of the right of access to justice and to an effective remedy, as well as undue interference with the independence of lawyers. The prosecution of lawyer Thulani Maseko is a clear example of that.
In March 2014, human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, and magazine editor, Bheki Makhubu, were arrested and charged with contempt of court. Maseko and Makhubu had both written articles in Makhubu’s magazine, The Nation, in which they criticised the Swazi judiciary and the Chief Justice. Despite various applications for their release and the recusal of the presiding judge, in July 2014 Judge Mpendulo Simelane found the pair guilty of contempt and sentenced them to a two-year jail term without the option of a fine.
In November 2014, the Supreme Court heard an appeal brought by the Chief Justice against the April 2014 judgment of High Court Judge Mumcy Dlamini. Judge Dlamini had found that Maseko and Makhubu’s arrest and detention was unlawful and unconstitutional and ordered that they be released. However, despite this judgment, Maseko and Makhubu were later rearrested and stood trial.
The International Commission of Jurists today welcomed the opinion by The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) condemning as arbitrary the detention of prominent human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko and calling on the Government of Swaziland to ensure his immediate release.
In response to a petition from the ICJ, the law firm Hogan Lovells US LLPS and the American Bar Association Center for Human Rights, the UNWGAD affirmed that the Swaziland government’s detention of Maseko is unlawful and that his rights to freedom of expression, liberty, and to a fair trial had been violated.
The International Commission of Jurists is concerned at the recent arrest of Swaziland High Court Judges Jacobus Annandale and Mpendulo Simelane, the High Court Registrar Fikile Nhlabatsi and the Minister of Justice Sibusiso Shongwe.
The four detainees appeared today before High Court Justice Qinisile Mabuza (photo).
Justice Minister Sibusiso Shongwe was denied bail and remains detained, while the other two High Court Judges and the registrar were released on bail.
The judges, registrar and Minister of Justice are all facing various charges related to corruption and obstructing the course of justice.
Tanele Maseko, the wife of the human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko, jailed in Swaziland for writing articles critical of the Swazi judiciary, has said she is amazed at the support he has received from the international community.
Maseko was jailed for two years alongside Bheki Makhubu, the editor of the Nation, a small-circulation monthly magazine in Swaziland. Both men were found guilty of contempt of court.