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Harare Security Heightened Facing Opposition Protest Wave

Zimbabwean government security forces have been placed on high alert in response to ongoing and planned demonstrations by the political opposition and civic groups to step up pressure on President Robert Mugabe for democratic reforms.

Chief police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena was quoted by the Sunday Mail as saying authorities were ready to deal with any “unlawful activity stemming from the protests.”

Senior intelligence officials, declining to be named said Mr. Mugabe was angered that a protest march staged Friday by officials and members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change faction led by party founding president Morgan Tsvangirai took police by surprise, then was allowed to proceed as they largely stood by.

Junior security officials were said to have been reprimanded for their inactivity.

Police on leave were recalled to bolster security, teams of anti-riot police were being dispatched to police stations throughout the country, official sources said.

Another police spokesman, Oliver Mandipaka, confirmed 351 police officers had been promoted effective Friday, September 1. Political analysts conclued that the move was aimed at bolstering support for the Mugabe administration among officers.

Despite heightened security, spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Tsvangirai led MDC faction told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that his party won’t be deterred from pursuing its long-promised campaign of peaceful resistance.

Analyst Sydney Masamvu of the International Crisis Group think tank's South African office said the protests marked an important turning point in the crisis.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions said it will hold demonstrations across the country on September 13 aiming to press the government to address the rapidly and continually deteriorating economic situation.

Responding to the ZCTU protest call this weekend, Mr. Mugabe issued a statement warning those participating to be prepared to face the full force of the law.

ZCTU Secretary General Wellington Chibhebhe told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that he was not focused on the threat of a police reponse but on "sending a message" to the Mugabe government about economic hardship and the AIDS death toll.

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