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Swazi police arrest politician

06 September 2013, 20:05

Mbabane - Swaziland police arrested an opposition leader and deported foreign trade unionists in a crackdown denied by authorities, South Africa's main union said on Friday, just two weeks before elections in the absolute monarchy.

South African workers' federation Cosatu said Mario Masuku, the leader of Swaziland opposition party Pudemo, was detained on Thursday en route to a protest against King Mswati III's government.

"The Pudemo president was arrested on his way to the border blockade near Oshoek," in northeast Swaziland, the union's international secretary Bongani Masuku told AFP.

But Swazi police spokesperson Wendy Hleta said the claim was "lies".

The International Trade Union Confederation, of which Cosatu is a member, had planned an investigation into Swazi workers' rights and democracy for Friday.

But Cosatu said security forces broke up the meeting and deported trade unionists including its representative Jay Naidoo, who was a South African cabinet minister under Nelson Mandela.

"They have been kicked out of the country," said Masuku.

Authorities could not be reached for comment on the incident, which took place in a hotel in Swaziland's second city, Manzini, but government spokesperson Percy Simelane confirmed Naidoo had been briefly detained for questioning on Thursday night.

Simelane denied however that Naidoo had been deported, saying he was in his hotel room waiting to catch a flight.

Africa's last absolute monarchy, which on Friday celebrates independence 45 years ago from Britain, votes in parliamentary elections on 20 September.

But critics say the polls are a sham, since Mswati controls parliament and political parties have been banned for decades.

Labour groups and a Swazi diaspora have been campaigning for democratic reforms in the tiny mountain kingdom, which is surrounded by South Africa and Mozambique.

Mswati last week described his kingdom as a "monarchial democracy".



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