The Times, Johannesburg online
17 September 2008
Swazi union blockade to protest poll
Swaziland unions and banned political parties plan to blockade border posts tomorrow in protest of parliamentary polls the following day in Africa's last absolute monarchy.
"Our members will be spread among the major borders in the regions nearest to them and we will be there even before the borders open so that not even a single person will be allowed in," Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) secretary general Jan Sithole told AFP.
"We will not be deterred by government threats that those who will take part in the action will face the consequences."
The protests, which will be supported by South Africa’s Confederation of Trade Unions (COSATU), are aimed at pressuring King Mswati III to recognise political organisations in the impoverished country.
The blockades are planned for all four borders posts with neighbouring South Africa.
Political parties in the tiny landlocked southern African country were banned in 1973 by the late King Sobhuza.
Parliamentary elections are held every five years after which the king appoints a new prime minister.
More than a third of the parliament’s 85 members are handpicked by the king, who also makes all government appointments.
"In calling for the demonstrations at the country’s border posts, it is clear that the unions want to strangle the economy of the country," Prime Minister Absalom Dlamini said in a statement.
"Their sole intention is to impede the smooth operation of our borders, which are a gateway to regional and international markets.
Unfortunately, the loss of markets can happen overnight, while re-establishing the lost markets is near impossible," he said.