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Tsvangirai Carries Opposition Protest Drive to Rural Zimbabwe

Movement for Democratic Change founding president Morgan Tsvangirai is turning his sights toward Zimbabwe's rural areas as he concludes a series of rallies in the cities aimed at mobilizing support for mass demonstrations against the government.

Tsvangirai was to address rallies in the eastern border city of Mutare and Harare, the capital, on the weekend before heading into rural Zimbabwe, considered by many to be a stronghold of the ruling ZANU-PF party, at least outside Matabeleland, whose Ndebele-speakers, a minority in Zimbabwe, tend to support the opposition.

The government, meanwhile, continued to step up security around the country.

Senior military sources said the Zimbabwe National Army is moving to recruit another 5,000 soldiers to bolster its forces in anticipation of possible mass demonstrations. But defence force public relations director Col. Ben Ncube said he could neither confirm nor deny that such a recruitment drive was in the works.

Reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe asked secretary general Tendai Biti of the opposition faction led by Tsvangirai about the strategies the MDC would adopt in the face of a continued government security buildup.

Elsewhere, rival opposition faction leader Arthur Mutambara was reshuffling his senior political staff after sustaining a rash of resignations of top officials, while his faction in general was trying to establish a closer bond with grass roots opposition members.

A document made available to Studio 7 indicated that Mutambara has named veteran trade unionist Jobert Mudzumwe to replace Gift Chimanikire, who resigned as national chairman earlier this week. In other appointments, former information and publicity secretary Paul Themba-Nyathi became national director of elections, replacing Blessing Chebundo, another prominent faction member to jump ship.

Other appointments included Morgan Changamire as deputy organising secretary and Gweru-based lawyer Tonderai Chitere as deputy secretary for legal affairs.

Bulawayo lawyer Josephat Tshuma was appointed secretary for local government and housing while Gabriel Chaibva took on the information and publicity portfolio.

Chaibva told reporter Patience Rusere that his faction is unfazed by the losses and is stepping up intensify its campaign to nonviolently dislodge the government.

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