Cape Town – The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Thursday accused the police of barbarism following the arrest of about 40 of its Western Cape members outside Parliament for protesting against visiting Indonesian president Mohamed Suharto.
"It is a violation of their constitutional right to demonstrate peacefully," Cosatu national spokeswoman Nowetu Mpati said.
The placard-bearing protesters were bundled into police vans and charged with contravening the 1993 Act on the Regulation of Gatherings, which prohibits placard demonstrations within 100 metres of Parliament or a court building by groups of more than 15.
Mpati said Cosatu's lawyers were looking into the matter.
"At this time of our democary it is barbaric for police to act like that; our lawyers are looking into the matter," she told Sapa.
Mpati also questioned the police's actions and said it appeared they had a hidden agenda.
"These arrests raise many questions about the police."
Thursday's protest was in line with Cosatu's resolution to protest against Suharto's human rights abuses in Indonesia and East Timor, Mpati said. The demonstration had also been in support of President Nelson Mandela's bid to help find a peaceful solution to the problem of East Timor.
The people of Indonesia had experienced the same repression and oppression that South Africans had felt under apartheid, Mpati said.
"Solidarity knows no boundaries... Wherever Suharto goes in South Africa, people who feel strongly about the abuse of human rights will protest."