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Police ban Cosatu blockade

SOUTH Africa’s main trade union federation said on yesterday police had refused to let it demonstrate at the border with Zimbabwe as part of its campaign to force political reforms in that country.

e=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), a key ally of the ruling African National Congress, had planned to picket at the Beitbridge border today in solidarity with the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.

It said it would challenge the protest ban in court.

Cosatu is stepping up its campaign against President Robert Mugabe’s government ahead of Zimbabwe’s March 31 parliamentary election. It accuses the Zimbabwean government of human rights abuses and says the poll will not be free and fair.

“The police are refusing to allow the picket at all, on the grounds that it could cause a blockade of the border,” Cosatu said in a statement.

Cosatu, whose leaders have been twice thrown out of Zimbabwe over charges of having a hostile agenda, has previously indicated it would lobby its regional counterparts for a blockade of the Zimbabwean borders.

South Africa is Zimbabwe’s main trading partner and a blockade of its commercial routes would compound the political and economic crisis there.

“If police still insist on unreasonable conditions, we shall seek a court order to establish our right to demonstrate,” Cosatu said.

The union federation has taken a much tougher line on Zimbabwe than the South African government.

The South African Communist Party, the third element of the ANC’s official ruling alliance, has called on the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) to ensure regionally agreed electoral guidelines are strictly adhered to in the March polls.

Mugabe’s government has dismissed Cosatu as a conduit in efforts by Western countries, led by former colonial ruler Britain, to interfere in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs.

Mugabe, in power since independence in 1980, accuses Britain and other Western powers of trying to topple him over his seizures of white-owned farms for blacks, and says they are sponsoring the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change. —Reuter.

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