S.A. COURT BANS BLOCKADE
SA court bans Zimbabwe blockade
Cosatu is a vocal critic of human rights abuses in ZimbabweSouth Africa's High Court has upheld a police ban on a blockade of its border with Zimbabwe by trade unionists. It said South African Cosatu members calling for democratic reforms in Zimbabwe could protest but must remain at least 200m from the border post. The court eased police restrictions on the number of people picketing, increasing it from 200 to 500. Three border protests are planned, set to finish with an all-night vigil on the eve of Zimbabwe's 31 March poll. Cosatu is an ally of South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC), but unlike the government, has been a vocal critic of human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. 'Free and fair' A Cosatu organiser said at least 200 people had turned up at the border at Beit Bridge carrying placards with slogans such as: "All in solidarity of the Zimbabwean people".
"More are still coming. We expect 500 protesters here. We are standing 200m from the border," Cosatu's Jan Tsiane told the South African Press Association. Police have warned protesters they will be arrested if they attempt to stop traffic passing over the border. "This not a precedent. We will be continuing our programme of action," Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven told AFP news agency after the ruling. On Wednesday, a group of Cosatu members protested outside the Zimbabwean High Commission in Pretoria against human rights abuses. In the last five months, Cosatu delegations on an election "fact-finding" missions have twice been deported from Zimbabwe. South Africa is seen as the key player in attempts to resolve Zimbabwe's problems, and some have called for it to stop supplying subsidised electricity to put pressure on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
Last week, South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki said he thought the elections would be free and fair. Mr Mugabe has promised that the 31 March parliamentary elections would be held according to new regional guidelines to ensure full transparency. But the opposition says the few changes which have been made are "superficial", while police harassment continues.