S.African unions vow to block Swazi border on protest day

10th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

South Africa's largest labour group plans to blockade a key border crossing with Swaziland next week to support planned protests against the rule of King Mswati III, an official said Sunday.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) will seek to shut down traffic across the Oshoek-Ngwenya border post between Johannesburg and Swaziland's capital, Mbabane, in a bid to paralyze the Swazi economy Tuesday, said Cosatu international deputy secretary Zanele Matebula.

Swazi unions, civil society leaders and banned opposition political parties have vowed to take to the streets from Tuesday in massive protests against the regime of Mswati, Africa's last absolute monarch.

"What we're trying to do is to get Swaziland ungovernable," Matebula told AFP.

"We're trying to reduce the numbers of people going to Swaziland for the day and reduce whatever materials that are supposed to go into Swaziland. That will have impact on businesses inside Swaziland, which we hope will spark them to raise their concerns against the monarchy."

Cosatu has backed away from original plans to send members into Swaziland to join the protests, but expects 200 to 300 people to join the border blockade, Matebula said.

She was speaking after a rally in Johannesburg in support of the protests that was attended by some 80 South African sympathisers.

South Africa's deputy foreign minister Ebrahim Ebrahim had been scheduled to speak at the rally but cancelled without explanation.

For weeks, organisers have been calling Swazis to rise up against Mswati's 25-year reign on April 12, the anniversary of the day the kingdom banned political parties in 1973.

Unrest has been growing in Swaziland as the country sinks into a deepening fiscal crisis that last month sparked the largest demonstrations in years when thousands of civil servants marched through Mbabane to protest proposed pay cuts.

Mswati's government has banned next week's protests and organisers said Sunday they fear a violent crack-down.

Security was tightened in the small mountainous kingdom, with soldiers searching cars at the border with South Africa and police staging roadblocks on highways.

© 2011 AFP

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