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Zimbabwe Union Recruits Allies Heading Into Promised Demonstrations

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions has taken steps to forge a tactical alliance with civil society groups and other opposition elements to reinforce its ranks when it stages demonstrations September 13 to protest deteriorating living standards.

The trade union's leaders met yesterday in Harare with its allies in the so-called Save Zimbabwe Campaign, which last month aligned more than 25 civic groups with the two factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. The Campaign's aim is to pressure President Robert Mugabe to agree to broad democratic reforms.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Program Manager Itai Zimunya, at the meeting with the trade union leadership, said civic groups agreed to help the ZCTU in mobilizing the country's workers and undertook to participate in the demonstrations.

The trade unionists and civic activists could face a tough police response, however, as security forces have been mobilized to meet the challenge to President Mugabe.

The government recently promoted 351 police officers in a move seen as an attempt to bolster support for the ruling ZANU-PF party. Confirming this, Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri earlier this week urged the officers who received a step up in rank to “remain dedicated, loyal and patriotic to the ideals of the government."

Spokesman Ernest Mudzengi of the National Constitutional Assembly, which seeks a rewrite of the constitution as a prelude to new elections, told Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that civic groups will give the ZCTU tactical support.

Researcher Chris Maroleng of South Africa’s Institute of Security Studies said that the disillusionment of workers could overcome their fear of a security crackdown.

More reports from VOA's studio 7 for Zimbabwe...