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Zimbabwe Opposition Vows More Mass Action If Democracy Not Restored - 2003-03-25

The head of Zimbabwe's opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, said his party plans to resume mass action at the end of the month if its demands for democracy are not met. The warning by Morgan Tsvangirai follows a government crackdown after a two-day strike last week paralyzed Zimbabwe's two largest cities.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said the level of repression in Zimbabwe is unacceptable.

Hundreds of people were arrested after last week's strike and many other people were severely beaten. Most of the attacks took place in the working-class suburbs around Harare. In interviews with the media and human rights workers, many of those who were beaten said government soldiers were responsible for the attacks.

The Movement for Democratic Change has given the government until March 31 to meet its demands for greater political freedom. It is calling for, among other things, a return to the rule of law and lifting of repressive security legislation. If there is no response from the government by the end of the month, Mr. Tsvangirai says the opposition will call for more mass action.

But the MDC leader also held out an olive branch. He said his party is willing to enter into talks with the government to discuss how to solve Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis.

Last year, in an effort to ease tensions in Zimbabwe, officials in Nigeria and South Africa arranged talks between the ruling ZANU-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change. But just before the talks were to take place, ZANU-PF said it was not going to participate.

Government rhetoric against the opposition has recently intensified. Following last week's strike, President Mugabe called the MDC a terrorist organization and vowed that it would be crushed.