Pro-reform strike in Swaziland eases

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The Independent Online
Mbabane (AP) - Shops reopened and factories resumed operations yesterday as a week-long national strike for democratic reforms in Swaziland eased.

Rural sugar and timber plantations remained at a standstill, but the main towns of Mbabane and Manzini teemed with people. A heavy police and military presence helped public transport to resume.

The strike shut down the nation of 1 million people, which is sandwiched between South Africa and Mozambique, for a week. King Mswati III called for people to return to work and accused the strikers of seeking to topple the monarchy. A growing pro-democracy movement wants the nation to adopt a constitution that legalises political parties and makes the king a constitutional monarch with no governing powers. The king indicated that talks on the political situation were possible, but has refused to concede any guarantees sought by the strike organisers.

"I think people have heeded the dictator," said Richard Nxumalo, president of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions and one of three labour leaders arrested last week and later released. "But the strike is not over."