June 8, 2006

Mbeki takes aim at “anti-democrats”

South African President Thabo Mbeki has warned that action would be taken to quell an "anti-democratic plague", as the death toll in a security guard strike, now running for more than two months, rose to over 20 in the central Gauteng province. The strike, called to demand better salaries and conditions, has been marked by violence and intimidation. The bodies of three security guards who had been shot in the head, their hands bound by handcuffs and electric wire, were found outside the capital, Pretoria, according to local media quoting police officials.

In his first public response to the strike in parliament, Mbeki slammed a rogue element for "assassinating" workers, but widened his target to include those who had killed city councillors, caused minibus-taxi wars, and damaged public and private property. "This minority, which obviously believes that it has the right to do as it pleases with impunity and outside the parameters of our democratic order, has sought to drag our country back to the killing fields that marked the dying days of the apartheid system," he said. "I am talking here of the people who have, since the advent of democracy, committed murder to advance their social and political goals; I am talking of those who are throwing people off moving trains and assassinating workers in the private security sector." Mbeki vowed that law enforcement agencies would act "vigorously" to defeat them.

The security workers' protest has taken a violent turn twice in recent months: on the streets of Cape Town, South Africa's legislative capital, bystanders were attacked, shops looted and cars smashed. City councillors have also been increasingly targeted, either by rival political groups or disgruntled voters. (The Mail & Guardian, Johannesburg)

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