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Political Climate Heating Up As Zimbabwe Economic Chill Deepens

Political temperatures are rising in Harare on the back of a deepening economic crisis and a controversial proposal from the ruling ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe to put off the presidential election due next year until 2010.

Zimbabwe has been hit by a wave of strikes since the turn of the year, with an action launched five weeks ago by hospital doctors and nurses crippling the health system and other public employees including teachers threatening to follow their lead.

The faction of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change led by MDC founding president Morgan Tsvangirai has declared that it considers the 2008 presidential campaign under way and will organize protests if the vote is put off.

The Tsvangirai MDC branch was organizing in Kuwadzana last week and will be rallying supporters in Glen View on Sunday, heading next to Matabeleland.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions general council meets on Saturday and ZCTU Secretary General Wellington Chibebe hints it is likely to call protests.

The government has warned it will deal harshly with protests. Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi was quoted as stating at the first graduation parade by police cadets this year that Harare is expanding the police force to 50,000 members. The army is recruiting too in anticipation of increased clashes with opposition forces.

Political analyst and former information minister Jonathan Moyo has warned that the economy is the biggest threat to President Mugabe's incumbency.

Nairobi-based political analyst Brian Kagoro, also African regional policy and advocacy manager for U.K.-based ActionAid, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that President Mugabe has failed to resolve the national crisis and that even some ruling party members lack confidence in his leadership.

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