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Police Shut Down Zimbabwe Civic Group Following Demonstrations

Police in Harare, Zimbabwe, closed the headquarters of the National Constitutional Assembly, a leading civil society organization, and placed it under heavy guard in the wake of national demonstrations organized Wednesday by the activist group.

NCA Chairman Lovemore Madhuku said police detained 33 organization members in the cities of Masvingo, Mutare and Gweru without pressing charges. He said lawyers for the detained activists had been denied access to their clients.

NCA members demonstrated in Harare, Bulawayo, Masvingo and Gweru to protest the governments intention, announced this week by President Robert Mugabe, of moving ahead with a constitutional amendment that will rearrange the electoral landscape.

Civil society groups and the political opposition want an entirely new constitution, and such a sweeping revision has emerged as a main point of crisis negotiations between the president's ruling ZANU-PF party and the Movement for Democratic Change.

The government's amendment adds scores of seats in the lower and upper houses of parliament, among other changes that will further tilt the electoral playing field.

Madhuku said that police in the capital soon released the approximately 200 members of his organization they had detained, some charging they had been beaten.

Madhuku told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that despite the arrests and beatings, the NCA plans to organize further demonstrations.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...