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Zimbabwe Civic Groups Planning Protests Over Mounting Political Violence

Groups led by the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition note that hundreds of people have been forced out of their homes in Harare suburbs such as Mbare by the violence while police have arrested many others

Zimbabwean non-governmental organizations said Wednesday that they intend to call for protests against the government for what they characterized as its inaction in the face of resurgent political violence across the Southern African country.

Civic groups led by the umbrella Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition note that hundreds of people, mainly supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, have been forced out of their homes in Harare suburbs such as Mbare by violence allegedly perpetrated by militant youths associated with President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, while police have arrested many others.

But Coalition spokesman Philip Pasirayi told VOA Studio 7 reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the protests will not target any single political party in the power-sharing government.

About 24 MDC activists including legislator Douglas Mwonzora of Nyanga, Manicaland province, are behind bars facing charges lawyers say are politically-motivated.

Activist Peter Muchengeti told VOA Studio 7 reporter Brenda Moyo that while civil society organizations were justified in calling protests against violence, the government is likely to see such demonstrations as an attempt to replicate the events witnessed across the Arab world from Tunisia to Libya to Egypt to Yemen to Bahrain.

Meanwhile, 45 International Socialist Organization activists accused of conspiring to incite mass protests along Egyptian lines to bring down the government, were arraigned on charges of treason and subversion, correspondent Thomas Chiripasi reported.

ISO Zimbabwe cordinator Munyaradzi Gwisai appeared before provincial magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi jointly charged with his colleagues with organizing strategies to remove the government of Zimbabwe through Egyptian-style mass protests.

State prosecutors say the ISO executive called an invitation-only meeting in Harare on Saturday at which participants, allegedly subjected to thorouth vetting before allowed in, watched video reports on events in Egypt and planned strategy. They

State prosecutors alleged that a "mission statement" was circulated saying the group "calls on workers, students and working people to support the struggle in solidarity with Egyptian and Tunisian workers." Police said they were tipped off about the meeting and staged a raid, arresting the 45 activists arraigned Wednesday in Harare.

Zimbabweans worldwide have watched closely in recent weeks as governments have fallen in the Middle East and North Africa in the face of mass protests.

VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira reported that Zimbabwean activists are debating if this mass-protest model can be adapted to Zimbabwean conditions.

Political analyst John Makumbe of the University of Zimbabwe, a longtime Mugabe critic, says the call for early elections in 2011, when the country is not ready for such a momentous task, "is a sure way of inviting trouble for its major perpetrators".

"We all know that ZANU-PF does not have even a ghost of a hope of winning a free and fair election in this country," he said. It is therefore "obvious that the former liberation movement intends to resort to indiscriminate political violence in order to cow the people to vote for Mubarak’s ageing friend Mugabe and his blasted party."