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Security Forces Seek Accord With Zimbabwe Civil Society Protesters

With economic conditions sharply deteriorating and labor unrest and protests on the rise, Zimbabwean security officials sought an agreement Monday with the chairman of a leading civic activist group not to call protests without first informing them.

National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku said later that he refused to enter into such an agreement because the NCA has as a matter of principle not given Zimbabwean authorities prior notice of their protests. The NCA has been at the cutting edge of increasingly strident protests against President Robert Mugabe and his ruling ZANU-PF party, fueled by widespread economic deprivation.

Madhuku said he was summoned Monday to Harare Central Police Station, where he has spent many an hour under detention or arrest for his activities. Instead of putting him in a cell, though, police served him a soft drink and opened talks with him.

Negotiating for the state was Senior Assistant Inspector Bothwell Mugariri, the highest-ranking police official in Harare province, flanked by the officer in command of law and order maintenance and the head of the police internal security intelligence unit.

Madhuku was accompanied by his lawyer, Alec Muchadehama.

Intelligence sources said authorities worried that the rising political temperature in the country could allow opposition forces to organize a Ukraine-style uprising.

Hospital doctors and nurses in the capital and in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second city, remain on strike, and the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe has just told the government that its members may go on strike on Monday, Feb. 5.

Madhuku told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that there is no backing off from protests.

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