Zimbabwean opposition and civic groups expressed outrage at the announcement by the government on Thursday that it was indefinitely extending a three-month ban on political rallies and public demonstrations imposed in February.
The two factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change joined hands in condemning the state's actions and promised to defy the ban affecting four districts of the capital: Mbare and the Harare South, Central and Suburban districts.
The government's latest ban in assemblies the four districts, which expires June 23, is an extension of one imposed by police in February in Mbare and Harare South district at a time when protests against the government were on the rise.
Chairman Lovemore Madhuku of the National Constitutional Assembly said his group would intensify its so-called defiance campaigns despite the ban.
Police spokesman Oliver Mandipaka told VOA the bans were imposed to curb political violence, and would be reviewed periodically. Senior police officers in Harare have accused the MDC of launching a campaign of violence, allegedly beating police and throwing Molotov cocktails at police posts and some civilian targets.
The opposition has dismissed the charges, saying they have been trumped up by the security forces to justify a crackdown on political dissent since mid-March.
Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the MDC faction of Morgan Tsvangirai told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Harare has in effect declared a state of emergency. Deputy Secretary General Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga of the rival MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara said the order was undemocratic.
But ZANU-PF Information Secretary Nathan Shamuyarira said the ban on meetings was necessary to curb alleged violence by the opposition.