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South African Unionists Arrested at Swazi Border

    About 45 trade unionists, including the deputy-president of South Africa's largest labor federation, were arrested at the border with Swaziland where protesters called for greater democracy there.

    Labor Rights Now, in a letter to South African President Thabo Mbeki, deplored the arrests as well as the police brutality employed in breaking up the protests.

    "American workers, having supported workers and unionists in South Africa in the struggle against apartheid, are deeply concerned over the excessive force used against the peaceful union protest," Labor Rights Now President said in the letter to Mbeki.

    "We have learned that the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) has opened an attempted murder investigation," Stillman noted. Two demonstrators have been hospitalized with serious injuries and five others also suffered phusical harm in the police attack.

    The protest was called to demand greater democracy in Swaziland. Swazi King Sobhuza II instituted a state of emergency 33 years ago that remains in force today. Political partices also are banned in the kingdom.

    The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said that the protests represented workers "growing concern at the abuse of human rights and the lack of democracy in this royalist dictatorship" of Swaziland. The labor federation also condemned the police action, saying it reminded them of the tactics of apartheid police.

    "It is clear that many in the South African Police Service are not trained to deal with protests of this kind, which require an ability to negotiate and reach agreement, rather than to engage in an immediate, aggressive confrontation," COSATU said in a statement.

    Reports indicate that Joel Nkosi, first deputy-president of COSATU, and Sedrick Gcina, second deputy-president of NUMSA, were arrested at the Jepperus border post for allegedly contravening the Public Gathering Act by blockading roads.

    Also arrested were Brabir Badal, national treasurer of NHEAWU, Mzwandile Makgayiba, second deputy-president of NHEAWU, and Zet Luzibo, COSATU's provincial secretary for KwaZulu-Natal.

    Labor Rights Now President Stillman told Mbeki that "we believe charges against them and the other demonstrators on behalf of Swazi democratization should dropped."

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