Opposition tightens screws on Zim govt

Harare - Anti-government groups in Zimbabwe began to tighten the screws on the ruling party on Sunday, calling for a tax boycott, a university class boycott and deciding to "test the waters" on political thuggery by staging an election rally near a flashpoint Harare suburb.

Police, however, moved in long before the start of the Movement for Democratic Change rally in Glenview, arresting 20 MDC supporters using loudspeakers to summon people to the meeting, a party official said.

"Police claim our supporters were inciting violence in Budiriro and arrested them," said MDC elections officer Nomore Sibanda. The MDC supporters, arrested on Saturday, were still being held as of early Sunday afternoon.

Police could not immediately be contacted for comment.

One person was killed and 18 were injured in bloody clashes Wednesday in Budiriro, which adjoins Glenview, between MDC supporters and members of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai was due later Sunday to address a rally at Glenview N his first public meeting since last Monday, when President Robert Mugabe named June 24 and 25 as the dates for parliamentary elections.

Tsvangirai claims that his party is not allowed to campaign freely as MDC supporters are continually beaten by ZANU-PF supporters and party rallies are routinely broken up.

On Saturday he said the MDC would "test the waters" on commitments made by Mugabe to reduce the levels of violence by staging a series of high-profile public rallies.

The labour-based MDC has previously said it would launch a programme of mass action to protest the violence being directed at its members, but has still to release details.

The Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU), meanwhile, said on Sunday it had called a class boycott at all universities and colleges on June 5 as a protest against the escalating political violence.

ZINASU president Hopewell Gumbo said in a statement that the union was concerned at the "state of anarchy" in Zimbabwe that had resulted in the deaths of at least 25 people, mostly MDC supporters.

"It is of concern that the coming parliamentary elections will not be free and fair given the prevailing atmosphere of intimidation and anarchy," Gumbo said.

"We have no choice but to resort to collective mass action to make our demand for democracy, peace and tranquility crystal clear."

Another opposition party, the small Zimbabwe Union of Democrats (ZUD), Sunday urged Zimbabweans to refuse to pay tax until the government affords them their "taxpayers' worth of goods and services."

"Zimbabweans rank amongst the highest taxed people in the world," said ZUD secretary-general Isaac Manyemba in a statement. "Of grave concern is the fact that the government has nothing to show for the punitive tax rates."

He said the bulk of the taxes collected was used to further the fortunes of the ruling party.

ZUD leader Margaret Dongo, meanwhile, accused Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon of endorsing a fraudulent election process by his claim last week that free and fair elections are possible in Zimbabwe.

"How can the person of the secretary general say such stupid things?" Dongo asked in an interview published Sunday in the independent Standard newspaper.

She said McKinnon's optimism was "unfortunate" given that he had not fully acquainted himself with the situation in the country.

The Commonwealth chief said after meeting Mugabe last Tuesday that he believed free and fair elections are possible in Zimbabwe despite the political violence. - Sapa-AFP


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