/ 10 April 2011

Cosatu plans blockade at Swazi border

Cosatu plans to mount a blockade at a key border post with Swaziland next week to support planned protests against the rule of King Mswati III.

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

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) plans to shut down traffic on Tuesday across the Oshoek-Ngwenya border post between Johannesburg and Swaziland’s capital, Mbabane, in a bid to paralyse the Swazi economy, 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 protest against the regime of Mswati, Africa’s last absolute monarch.

“What we’re trying to do is to get Swaziland ungovernable,” said Matebula.

“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 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 which was attended by about 80 South African sympathisers.

South Africa’s deputy foreign minister Ebrahim Ebrahim had been scheduled to speak at the rally, but then cancelled his appearance 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 on Sunday they feared a violent crack-down.

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