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Pro-Mugabe Rally Attracts Many Thousands; Opposition Decries 'Madness'

Thousands of war veterans of Zimbabwe's 1970s war of liberation and other loyalists of President Robert Mugabe marched through Harare to the Zimbabwe Grounds in the high-density suburb of Highfield Friday to express support for his re-election.

Mr. Mugabe in a speech to the packed stadium lashed out at Britain for trying to block his attendance at the upcoming European-African summit, telling Britain to “listen to this simple lesson, that Zimbabwe is no longer a British colony.”

Various sources said the crowd, though large, was shy of the million people that the organizers had envisioned in calling the "Million Man March," perhaps totaling several hundred thousand. State transport including bus lines and the National Railways were pre-empted to bring marchers from largely ruling party-dominated rural areas.

Correspondent Peter Nthambe, who witnessed the march and Mr. Mugabe's speech at the Zimbabwe Grounds, provided a briefing on the day's events.

The march drew sharp criticism from the opposition, which said organizing such an event in the midst of a severe economic crisis was “madness.”

Security and intelligence spokesman Giles Mutsekwa of the Movement for Democratic change faction of Morgan Tsvangirai told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the march was intended to intimidate opposition supporters and those in the ruling party who might challenge Mr. Mugabe's bid for re-election.

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