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Zimbabwe Opposition Declares Protest Ban 'Invalid' - 2003-06-01

As Zimbabwe prepares for a possible week-long protest against the government, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change claims a court order banning its protests is invalid. The High Court ordered MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai to call off all planned demonstrations and a general strike.

A policeman delivered a document to Mr. Tsvangirai's home late Saturday. The MDC leader said the document purported to be notification of a case against him in the High Court, but that it was unsigned and undated.

High Court Judge Ben Hlatshwayo issued an interim order banning the MDC and Mr. Tsvangirai from holding protest marches beginning Monday. The MDC was not in court when the order was issued.

In the document, the commissioner of police, Augustine Chihuri, said the MDC was planning to use violence in the demonstrations. Mr. Tsvangirai and the MDC have issued statements and advertisements in newspapers calling for Zimbabweans to demonstrate peacefully.

Mr. Tsvangirai responded to the High Court action by insisting that the demonstrations will go ahead. He said he will lead the first march from a township south of the city center to the High Court, where he is on trial for treason.

Legal sources say the MDC will almost certainly try to appeal to the Supreme Court early Monday to set aside the ban on demonstrations.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe National Army troops were deployed in Harare and in numerous townships around the country. A convoy of 12 armored vehicles moved through parts of Harare Saturday, carrying government soldiers who shouted slogans of President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party.

It was unclear whether police and army roadblocks would allow people to converge Monday on city centers. Many businesses and industries have braced themselves for a week-long shutdown.