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Protesters Block Swazi-South Africa Border

South African labor unions and other organizations are forcing a slowdown in cross-border traffic at three of the country's five border posts with Swaziland. The enforced slowdown is part of a one-day protest.

The protest is being staged in support of Swaziland opposition groups demanding greater democracy in the landlocked kingdom. Swaziland has been ruled by royal decree since 1973 when the late King Sobhuza the Second suspended the constitution and outlawed political parties.

The current monarch, Mswati the Third continues to wield overall authority, despite the adoption of a new constitution in February that proclaimed freedom of association and of speech, but did not guarantee rights of political activity.

The protest is being led by the powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions, known as COSATU, and the South African Communist Party. Both are part of the Swaziland Solidarity Network.

Speaking on national radio, COSATU Secretary General Zwelinzima Vavi said that the protesters are serving notice on the Swazi leaders that their brand of government no longer has any place in Africa.

"And we want to send a strong signal to the regime in Swaziland that it cannot be an island surrounded by a sea of democracies," he said. "Swaziland is the only country where there is no free political activity in the entire SADC region and this should not be allowed and tolerated any further."

Vavi also said African leaders, including the Southern Africa Development Community, are not using their authority to protect the rights of Swazi nationals.

"Surely, we think that there has been no action whatsoever, and I want to see anyone making a case that they have been putting pressure on Swaziland to democratize," he added. "We think SADC have been paying lip service to this issue, and we think that the African Union has completely failed the people of Swaziland in terms of coming upfront to condemn dictatorship, to condemn the fact that people cannot assemble, and that political organizations are banned here and that nobody has the freedom of speech."

While there has been limited resistance in the past in Swaziland, last year there was a series of fire bombings that damaged buildings. Sixteen members of the outlawed People's United Democratic Movement were arrested on charges of sedition and high treason.