Founding president Morgan Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change has called a presidential campaign rally Saturday in Bulawayo in a challenge to an apparent ban on political meetings imposed by the government.
Riot police turned out in force on Sunday in the Harare district of Highfield to block the MDC faction led by Tsvangirai from holding a rally at which the former union leader planned to launch his candidacy in the presidential election due in 2008.
President Robert Mugabe has proposed to postpone the vote until 2010, galvanizing the political opposition and Zimbabwean civil society groups which have been demanding Mr. Mugabe's resignation over the economic meltdown.
Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi could not be reached to confirm if Harare has formally banned all political meetings. But opposition officials said the minister stated such a ban late last week, citing the "volatile" political climate in the country.
Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Tsvangirai's MDC faction told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the opposition branch will continue to hold political meetings and does not take instructions from Mohadi.
Meanwhile, two senior officials of the Tsvangirai faction and seven other activists accused of assaulting or inciting the assault of police in a protest Friday were finally arraigned Tuesday afternoon and released on Z$50,000 bail.
Harare correspondent Irwin Chifera reported on the court appearance, during which a lawyer for the arrested men charged they were abused by police in detention.