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Zimbabwean Opposition Launches Long-Awaited Protest Campaign

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai led senior officials and members of his faction of the divided Movement for Democratic Change on a march Friday to the Harare parliament where they gave ruling party legislators a "roadmap" for change.

Opposition officials said the protest launched the wave of actions Tsvangirai promised in March at the MDC faction's congress. He has vowed to organize public resistance to the government of President Robert Mugabe until Harare agrees to broad changes including a constitutional rewrite and new, internationally supervised elections.

The protest came one day after opposition parties and civil society groups endorsed a unity pact, and months after Tsvangirai warned Harare at his party's March congress to brace for a “sustained cold season of peaceful demonstrations and resistance.”

Correspondent Irwin Chifera of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported that the march and demonstration were peaceful and that police made no attempt to interfere.

For a government response to the protest, Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu turned to William Nhara, a senior spokesman in the office of President Robert Mugabe.

Researcher Chris Maroleng of South Africa's Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, said that while Mr. Mugabe might not find the protests intimidating, he will all the same be obliged to note that the opposition is testing the waters for further resistance.

Meanwhile, the top decision-making body of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions was to meet Saturday to schedule worker protests to demand higher pay and better living standards amid 1,000% inflation, food shortages and lofty unemployment.

The union said it has finished consulting with its membership and reports that its rank and file has demanded it organize protest actions. Not surprisingly, the government and business have warned that industrial action will be counterproductive.

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions Secretary General Wellington Chibhebhe told Studio 7 reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that Zimbabwean workers are ready for action.

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