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Zimbabwe Police Stop Opposition Rally - 2002-02-10

Police in Zimbabwe have stopped opposition leader and presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai from holding a campaign rally. Earlier, a truck publicizing the event in the town of Gokwe, 200 kilometers west of the capital, Harare, was firebombed and destroyed.

A press spokesman for Morgan Tsvangirai, Percy Makombe, said police stopped the convoy taking Mr. Tsvangirai to the rally at a roadblock three kilometers outside Gokwe.

Mr. Tsvangirai, of the Movement for Democratic Change, is the main challenger to President Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe's presidential election March 9-10.

The spokesman said the police claimed they had been given no advance notice of the Gokwe rally. A new law, the Public Order Act, requires political parties in Zimbabwe to give four-days' notice of political gatherings.

Mr. Makombe said police officers refused to allow the convoy to continue, even when they were shown a certificate of permission. He called the police action "totally unjustified" and said there is what he described as "an unholy alliance between the police and the ruling party."

Two weeks ago police stopped a rally due to be addressed by Mr. Tsvangirai at Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second city. Eighteen people were seriously injured, one of whom died later, when police fired teargas at people going to the rally.

The Movement for Democratic Change blames militia of the ruling ZANU party for Saturday evening's firebombing of the truck advertising the Gokwe rally. The driver and assistants in the truck escaped unharmed. The MDC says 13 of its supporters and one ruling party supporter were arrested following the attack. There has been no police comment.

And in what the opposition party calls further harassment of its supporters, police searched the home of a leader of the youth wing of the party. Police said they were searching for arms of war and subversive materials. No weapons were found, but documentary films on Zimbabwe were reported taken away.