The preliminary report released by the Human Rights Commission should be commended on the basis that it created a foundation for a full and comprehensive investigation.
Perhaps, before the criticism directed to the Commission intensifies, let me clarify that a preliminary report is prepared at the early stages of an investigation and in this regard, it seeks to update stakeholders and those involved prior to the final report. As the situation stands, it is important to capacitate the Commission with resources to conduct a full investigation including forensic among others investigating tactics, to verify some of the victims who were buried without being reported.
Personally, let me state that after reading the report, I was impressed by the fact that the investigators were open minded and adhered to the basic principles of investigation.
In the report, the Commission stated that according to their preliminary findings, forty-six(46) people were killed, two hundred and forty-five(245) were injured and two hundred and thirty five(235) arrested.
The report further stated that there was a possibility that more people were killed during the unrest but for now, they have confirmed these figures at the preliminary stage of the investigation.
Now, it is the duty of all stakeholders to flood the Human Rights Commission with more information and request a full investigation to uncover more evidence regarding the killing of civilians by Mswati’s forces.
We know that despite having employed highly skilled and qualified investigators, the Human Rights Commission cannot be independent under this oppressive government and I would like to commend it for releasing this report under such a hostile political environment.
It is an indisputable fact that many people died but an investigation report is compiled based on substantive evidence for credibility purposes.
It is therefore the duty of all stakeholders including the media, civil society and families of the victims to play a role in making sure that all the necessary information reaches the local and international investigation institutions.
An investigation by its nature is a process of establishing facts and the gathering of evidence and in line with the basic principles of investigation, detectives must approach the investigation with an open and independent mind.
But despite the good work done by the Commission’s investigators, the involvement of lawyer Sabelo Masuku undermined the investigation and credibility of the report on the grounds that he is a son to Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku, one of the suspects in the killings of civilians.
It should be noted that an investigation is conducted in stages, it is during the planning stage where investigators are expected to declare a possible conflict of interest that might undermine the credibility of the investigation.
Indeed, one of the fundamental values and principles of investigation suggest that investigators must declare a conflict of interest that might cloud their independent minds and subsequently undermine the process of an investigation.
As a lawyer, Commissioner Sabelo Masuku ought to have known that his mere involvement in the process either at the investigation stages or at the presentation of the report would undermine the credibility of the work done by the investigators on the basis that he is a son to a well-known political liar Themba Masuku.
As a result, the Commissioner should have delegated his powers either to his deputy or a senior investigator to present the report on behalf of the Commission.
But despite the few concerns, the report is very informative and creates a foundation for other international human rights agencies to conduct further investigations.
It should be noted that conducting investigations in this country is not an easy task, institutions like the police are always reluctant to cooperate because they believe they are the law unto themselves.
In conclusion, let me urge other international human rights organizations to analyse this report and conduct further investigations, more civilians are being killed by Mswati’s forces during the ongoing political unrest.
Human Rights Commission Commissioner Sabelo Masuku