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Tensions Escalate In Harare's Unity Govt As PM's Party Calls On People To Defy Police Bans

  • Benedict Nhlapho

Moves by President Mugabe, Prime Minister Tsvangirai and the Cabinet to ease tensions have not helped, as sources said the crackdown allegedly pursued by ZANU-PF and security forces has only intensified

The Movement for Democratic Change formation of Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has called on Zimbabweans to resist what it characterizes as attempts by the police to impose a state of emergency across the nation.

Moves by President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Tsvangirai and the Cabinet to ease tensions have not helped, as sources said the crackdown has only intensified.

The president and prime minister agreed on Monday that the right of assembly should be restored, agreeing Harare is not threatened, MDC sources said.

A top level meeting Tuesday to discuss the banning of rallies was cancelled after Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri told the three unity government principals - including Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara - he had ordered the ban lifted.

Many activists have been arrested in what critics call a move to pre-emptively thwart any Egyptian-style popular uprising. Police have disrupted rallies and meetings.

Co-Minister of Home Affairs Theresa Makone told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that Chihuri did send radio messages to the national police lifting the bans.

National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku told Blessing Zulu that ministers are powerless as Chihuri is only answerable to President Mugabe.

Two human rights activists were arrested Wednesday in Chinhoyi, Mashonaland West province, on charges of conspiring to overthrow the government.

VOA sources said armed police besieged the United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe and arrested church coordinator Owen Dhliwayo and a Youth Dialogue oficial for allegedly plotting to overthrow Mr. Mugabe and his colleagues in government.

Sources said the police also wanted to arrest National Constitutional Assembly member and Progressive Youth Development Coordinator Claris Madhuku and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights officer Tineyi Mukwewa, but they eluded arrest.

The activists were attending a workshop organised by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights which was attended by about 60 people, mostly from the NCA.

NCA Information Officer Blessing Vava told VOA reporter Patience Rusere that the police also confisticated money from the two people who were arrested, alleging it came from British sources and was intended to finance the government's overthrow.

In Johannesburg, meanwhile, Zimbabwean journalists and rights defenders accused the ZANU-PF party of President Mugabe of using violence to tamp down dissent.

The activists said the former ruling party is already using intimidation and violence to coerce voters, as correspondent Benedict Nhlapho reported from Johannesburg.