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International: Cosatu activists jailed for supporting Swazi people

16 July 2006, Posted in News

Cosatu activists jailed for supporting Swazi people

Numsa comrades were at the Swaziland border in May to show their solidarity with the Swazi people. Cedric Gina reports.

Protesters arrived at the border with two buses and many mini-buses. By 8am the two buses parked across the gates to Swaziland blocking the way. The Pongola police management objected to the blockade.

By the time I arrived at the border, senior members of the Public Order Policing Unit (POP) had arrived. I became one of the negotiators. We managed the superintendent of POP from Ulundi (former KwaZulu police) until he lost his cool.

By the time we removed the buses at 1.30 pm , the breakdown truck was on its way to remove them. Traffic cops were called and gave tickets to the drivers of the buses.

We then replaced the transport blockade with a human chain. Police charged at us pushing us to one side. The Sars Nehawu members joined us in processing the documents from truck drivers as slowly as possible.

By now KwaZulu police and soldiers were getting edgy. The superintendent announced apartheid style, “we give you 5 minutes to disperse”.

We called workers to one side of the road. We explained the success of the action and the possible confrontation with the police. We allowed Kislon Shongwe, deputy general secretary of Swaziland ‘s mass based organisation, Pudemo, to address the workers. He started a long speech.

Zeth Luzipho, Cosatu provincial secretary, was called to one side. He took me along with him to discuss with superintendent Ndlovu. That discussion ended with us in a police van, arrested for public violence.

Before Cosatu vice president Joe Nkosi could address the workers before they dispersed, he was called to one side politely and told he must join us in the van. The same thing happened to Prabir Badal and Michael Makwayiba, the treasurer and second vice president of Nehawu respectively.

We then started the 41km journey to the police cells in Pongola. We were escorted by two kombis full of policemen guarding us ‘dangerous prisoners’! Workers demanded to be arrested with us in Pongola, but there were not enough cells.

An exchange of phone calls took place between senior comrades but no amount of political intervention could allow us to sleep outside the cells, except an assurance from the acting premier Zweli Mkhize that they would not oppose bail the next day.

We appeared in court the next day, after spending a night in a cell reserved for ‘immigrants’. We were granted bail of R500 each and ordered to be back in court on May 8.

As Numsa News went to print, the court case against the Cosatu activists had been postponed until June 30.

Around the world with Numsa

CANADA: Selina Mputhi, gender/health and safety coordinator, attended a health and safety conference in Canada

TURKEY: Goodman Wayile, shopsteward at Continental Tyre, attended an ICEM Rubber Conference in Turkey

NORWAY: Silumko Nondwangu and Selina Mputhi attended an IMF Executive meeting in Norway on May 18 and 19

NORWAY: Selina Mputhi attended an IMF Women’s meeting in Norway on May 17

SWAZILAND: Cosatu activists jailed for supporting Swazi people. As Numsa News went to print, the court case had been postponed until June 30.