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Wednesday, 15 November, 2000, 10:19 GMT
Swazi unionist under house arrest
Injured Swazi striker
Some strikers were injured during police action
The leader of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU), Jan Sithole, is under house arrest.

A police spokesman said Mr Sithole is regarded as "a threat to security" and has been placed under armed police guard.

Police attacked workers in the capital, Mbabane, and in the eastern industrial city of Manzini, on Tuesday, the second day of their strike to press for democratic reform in the kingdom.

The secretary-general of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers, Musa Dlamini, said striking workers had been beaten up and a school teacher shot in the eye.

The strike, called for Monday and Tuesday, was banned by a court order obtained by the government late on Sunday.

Planned action

Trade union leaders are specifically objecting to a new law which makes workers liable for losses suffered as the result of industrial action.

Meetng in South Africa
Union leader Jan Sithole: meeting banned in Swaziland
They are also demanding democratic reform in the country, where King Mswati has absolute power, and rules by decree.

The SFTU says its next move will the a blockade of all goods entering Swaziland to take place on 29 and 30 November.

The powerful South African trade union grouping, Cosatu, has already said it will take part in the blockade.

Detentions

Mr Sithole told the German news agency he was worried about his safety.

"I don't know how they can say I am a security threat," he said.

King Mswati III:
King Mswati III: Criticised as increasingly autocratic
"I am just a union leader."

The government recently re-introduced provisions enabling police to hold suspects for 60 days.

On Friday police arrested Mario Masuku, the leader of the banned People's United Democratic Movement (Pudemo), on charges of uttering seditious statements against the king.

He is alleged to have called for the downfall of King Mswati and called for all institutions in the country, including churches, to turn against the king.

He was released on bail on Wednesday.

External protest

The strike follows a meeting of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) in neighbouring South Africa a week ago which endorsed calls to end Swaziland's ban on political activities

T-shirted protester
Wearing the message: "Liberate Swaziland now"
Political parties were banned by the late King Sobhuza II in 1973 when he suspended a constitution which allowed multi-party democracy.

As a result of Swaziland's new labour law, the United States has excluded it from some benefits under the recently passed Africa Growth and Opportunity Act.

It could also lead to Swaziland's expulsion from the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), an allied trade agreement for developing countries.

The government is holding discussions with a visiting delegation from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) over Swaziland's worsening industrial relations.

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See also:

14 Nov 00 | Africa
Swazi striker shot
06 Nov 00 | Africa
Swazis protest at king's rule
31 Aug 00 | Africa
No new bride for Swazi king
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