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Zimbabwean Civil Society Groups Step Up Pressure on Mugabe Government

Top officials of seven Zimbabwean opposition parties were scheduled to converge in Bulawayo on Saturday to exchange ideas and present themselves to voters.

The Bulawayo Agenda advocacy group invited the presidents of both factions of the Movement for Democratic Change, the Zimbabwe African People’s Union-Federal Party, the United People’s Party, the Democratic Party, the United People’s Movement, and the Patriotic Union of Matabeleland.

However, MDC founding President Morgan Tsvangirai told the group that a confllicting political engagement would prevent him from attending. Bulawayo Agenda Program Director Xolani Zitha said one of Tsvangirai's lieutenants was expected. He added that the Bulawayo Agenda is not affailiated with any particular political party.

Senior political science lecturer John Makumbe of the University of Zimbabwe said the exclusion of other opposition parties such as Zanu-Ndonga, the United Party and the National Alliance of Good Governance, among others, would not diminish the significance of the gathering, as the main parties would be represented.

Separately, members of the Crisis Coalition In Zimbabwe, an umbrella organization for hundreds of civic groups, passed a vote of no confidence in the diplomatic talks which President Robert Mugabe has proposed between Harare and London, with former president Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania serving as his mediator.

Civil society groups say mediation by Mkapa and talks with London will not address critical issues of poor governance at home.

The Crisis Coalition said its members will gather next week to seek alternatives to the Mkapa process. The Crisis Coalition and the Christian Alliance of religious leaders will meet in a one-day convention July 29 to discuss how to press Harare for a redraft of the constitution as an essential preparatory step to a fresh round of elections.

The organizers of this so-called ‘’Save-Zimbabwe’’ convention have invited ZANU-PF Information and Publicity Secretary Nathan Shamuyarira, also a member of the party’s Politburo, according to Crisis Coalition spokesman Itayi Zimunya.

He said in an interview with reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that civil society groups meanwhile will pursue resistance to the authorities at lower levels - for instance mobilizing Harare residents against the city commission that the central government appointed to replace an opposition-dominated city council.

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