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Zimbabwe's Opposition Leadership Marches to Parliament


Months after Zimbabwe's main opposition promised unspecified mass action to protest the continued political and economic crisis in the country, the party's leadership Friday led a demonstration to parliament to deliver what it calls its road map to the end of the problems.

The march by some 250 placard-waving and singing members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was led by party president Morgan Tsvangirai along with other senior members of the party. At the end of the march, Tsvangirai briefly addressed his followers in Shona.

"This is the beginning," he said. "We shall continue until we are free."

Tendai Biti, the MDC's secretary-general, told VOA the purpose of the march is to demonstrate that the opposition has a plan of action.

"We had gone to parliament to deliver a road map for democracy to this regime," said Biti. "It's a reflection of things to come, we don't want to go into details but I can assure you there is more where this is coming from."

The demonstrators made their march from the party headquarters in downtown Harare - a block away from parliament - without an incident. They did not, however, succeed in delivering their document to the speaker of parliament as intended because the doors of the house were slammed in their faces. In response, they pinned the document to the door of parliament.

The march took place without the police breaking up the protest, which, according to Zimbabwean law, was illegal. In the past, the police have dealt ruthlessly with any form of dissent. Party spokesman Nelson Chamisa said the police were caught off guard.

"Right now they are still mobilizing. They do not have fuel, so they are still trying to get drums of fuel but we have already finished," he said. "This regime is not prepared, the crisis is beginning to bite the system's capacity to respond to people's legitimate discontent."

Chamisa believes Friday's march can be replicated on a national scale. He declined to give any details and plans are under way to go forward with long promised mass action.

"We have not made a call to the people but you can see once we make that call, the people are going to come out," added Chamisa.

University of Zimbabwe's John Makumbe agreed that the people of Zimbabwe are ready to risk life and limb to put an end to their suffering.

Zimbabwe is experiencing its worst economic crisis since independence 26 years ago. Inflation is close to 1,000 percent and fuel, food and foreign currency are in short supply. Critics of President Robert Mugabe, who has been in power since 1980, blame government mismanagement for the meltdown.

Mr. Mugabe blames Western-imposed sanctions for the country's problems. Mr. Mugabe and senior members of his party and government are on the list of a travel ban imposed by the European Union and the United States for alleged human rights abuses.

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