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Thousands Protest Against Harare Mayor, Opposition Member Elias Mudzuri - 2003-03-24


Thousands of people gathered in central Harare Monday for a demonstration organized by by the ruling ZANU-PF party, against the city's mayor, a member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. The demonstration was the first in more than a year that was not interferred with by police.

The protest took place outside the office of the mayor of Harare, Elias Mudzuri, in the busy western part of the capital.

According to state radio, the protest was against a disciplinary hearing due to be held into the affairs of the town clerk, who had been hired by the previous ruling party administration.

Several thousand people, many of whom arrived in state-owned buses, clamored outside the mayor's office, and there were only a handful of policemen in attendance.

The last demonstration at the mayor's office was an opposition rally several weeks ago in support of the mayor. It lasted a few seconds before being broken up by riot police.

Mr. Mudzuri was elected a year ago on an opposition ticket with a massive majority in the city's first mayoral elections. Since his election, he has been detained, assaulted and his home has been raided.

Police spokesmen were not answering their phones Monday so it is not known whether ZANU-PF had secured permission for the demonstration. Last year the legislature approved a government-sponsored measure requiring police permission for all demonstrations. Meanwhile, many hundreds of people who were arrested during last week's massive strike remain in police custody.

President Robert Mugabe has said the strike, which was called by the Movement for Democratic Change, was aimed at overthrowing his government. From now on, he says, the opposition would no longer be treated with what he called soft gloves.

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