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Zimbabwe Civic Groups Vow Action To Block Mugabe Term Extension

Zimbabwe civil society groups vowed Monday to launch peaceful street protests in opposition to a proposal by the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe to put off a presidential election due in 2008 for two years to "harmonize" with the next general election - and keep President Mugabe in power.

The ruling party adopted the plan on the weekend at its annual conference in Goromonzi, Mashonland East with eight out of 10 provincial delegations backing the idea of a so-called harmonization of elections. The lack of unanimity reflected tension inside ZANU-PF as some had hoped the conference would take up the issue of the succession to Mr. Mugabe, which has now been pushed off two years further in the future.

ZANU-PF party sources had said that loyalists of Vice President Joyce Mujuru would to bring up the question of the succession during the conference, but this did not happen. Insiders said Mr. Mugabe had nipped that insurrection in the bud.

ZANU-PF Political Commissar Elliot Manyika said the party will refer the so-called harmonization back to the party's central committee and politburo (which before the conference had given their blessing to the term extension maneuver) and then to parliament for passage of constitutional amendment.

Diplomatic sources said ZANU-PF's tinkering with the election schedule will will further isolate the country and deepen its economic crisis.

National coordinator Jenni Williams of the Bulawayo-based activist group Women of Zimbabwe Arise said WOZA will step up its non-violent protests.

Chairman Lovemore Madhuku of the National Constitutional Assembly told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that his nongovernmental organization has already started to mobilize forces to challenge ZANU-PF on its "harmonization."

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