Zimbabwean police on Wednesday barred Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai from holding a meeting in Harare's Highfield suburb, according to his formation of the Movement for Democratic Change. Meanwhile, President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF was flexing its muscles ahead of elections which many expect will be held next year.
Inspector James Sabau, a spokesman for the Zimbabwe Republic Police in Harare province, said he is had not been briefed on the refusal by police in the capital to authorize the MDC political meeting.
MDC Harare Province Chairman Morgan Femai said police told party officials they had not been notified on time.
Under the country's Public Order and Security Act, police must be informed seven days before a meeting is held. Femai said MDC Secretary Tsaurai Marima had notified the police of the forthcoming event well in advance.
Nelson Chamisa, spokesman for Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC formation, said the party canceled the meeting because its officials did not want supporters to clash with police who had already mobilized for a showdown in the Harare suburb, scene of a major clash at an opposition rally in March 2007 at which an opposition member was shot dead.
ZANU-PF sources, meanwhile, said the former ruling party will lean on national security services headed by the Joint Operations Command to keep a firm grip on the national electoral playing field while conducting regional diplomacy to ensure the Southern African Development Community accepts the outcome of the elections. The sources said Mr. Tsvangirai must expect a tough election, adding that access to rural communities will be
ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said the party will campaign in earnest next year, rejecting talk of violence.
In a meeting Tuesday in Mabvuku, another populous Harare suburb, Mr. Tsvangirai told members of his party that he is ready to take the formation into new elections next year. But he added MDC participation would be on the condition the process is peaceful, adding that this might need the deployment of peacekeepers by SADC.
VOA Studio 7 correspondent Thomas Chiripasi reported on Mr. Tsvangirai's speech to supporters.