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Trade Unions Call for Postponement of Upcoming Elections in Zimbabwe

The main trade unions in South Africa and Zimbabwe are calling for the postponement of Zimbabwe’s March 31st elections. The Congress of South African Trade Unions, or COSATU, and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions say conditions are not yet ripe in Zimbabwe for a free and fair vote. The two groups announced their decision after meeting at the border town of Musina Thursday -- just a day after Zimbabwean authorities denied a delegation from COSATU entry into the country. The government said the South African unionists had not filled out the proper paperwork and were coming to Harare to support the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. COSATU said it had all the documentation required under the protocol of the Southern African Development Community and that its trip to Harare was perfectly legal.

COSATU spokesman Patrick Craven told English to Africa reporter William Eagle that free and fair elections require an independent electoral commission, an update of voter rolls, reform of laws that impede participation by political parties and civic groups, and full access for international observers and independent local monitors. Mr. Craven told VOA that the two unions are calling for a meeting of the executive committee of the Botswana-based Southern Africa Trade Union Co-Ordination Council (SATUCC) to help broaden their campaign to other regional countries. He said they are also proposing a conference in South Africa of all pro-democracy groups to coordinate their actions with regard to Zimbabwe.