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Police Ban Political Meetings In Harare Districts; Opposition Outraged

The Zimbabwe Republic Police on Wednesday banned political rallies and protests for three months in parts of Harare after clashes between security forces and members of the opposition in a suburb of the capital when authorities barred a scheduled rally.

Police published notices in the state-controlled Herald newspaper Wednesday citing the draconian Public Order and Security Act and stating that "the holding of rallies and demonstrations in Mbare district (and Harare South) are prohibited" until May 20.

The orders targeted two high-density suburbs which are strongholds of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. The police officer in charge of Mbare district, Tsitsi Sadzamari, said the orders were issued in response to the "pandemonium, looting and destruction of property” in Kambuzuma and Highfield districts after MDC rallies.

Intelligence sources said it is likely the ban will be extended to the rest of the country.

Analysts said Harare is effectively under an undeclared state of emergency.

Deputy Secretary for Legal Affairs Jessie Majome of the MDC faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the ban is unconstitutional. From Bulawayo, Deputy Information Secretary Abednico Bhebhe of the Arthur Mutambara faction said it shows that the government is panicking.

Harare is on the edge as the economic crisis deepens with inflation close to 1,600%. Doctors, teachers, college lecturers and university students are striking and the civil and organized political opposition have pledged to defy the proposed postponement of next year's presidential election until 2010 when a general election is due.

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