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MDC's VP Sibanda Still in Jail - 2003-04-01

Movement for Democratic Change, or MDC, Vice President Gibson Sibanda failed to post bail today and will spend a second night in prison. The arrest comes amid reports that members of the uniformed forces are on high alert following the deadline of an ultimatum by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. The MDC said it would plan a mass action if the government did not lift repressive laws over the opposition and the media by the end of March.

Mr. Sibanda is detained in the country's second largest city, Bulawayo. The state opposes releasing him on bail arguing that he will leave the area. There were reports from the MDC Monday that he was released but it has been established that he was detained over night.

Mr. Sibanda's lawyer Josphat Tshuma says he is charged under the Section 5 of the Public Order and Security Act for allegedly organizing the mass job stay away on 18 and 19 March.

MDC spokesperson Paul Themba Nyathi castigated the ruling ZANU PF party for the arrest of Mr. Sibanda; a move that he said will inspire people to react against the authorities.

Meanwhile, members of the public are complaining that they are being harassed at roadblocks by the police. They say those who are travelling without identity cards are being ordered out of their cars and made to roll in pools of water.

Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena says the police have not received any such complaints from the public. However, he did say roadblocks are necessary in view of threats of violence by the MDC. He said the police are searching for dangerous weapons but says they have not seized any such weapons so far.

Government sources say the government has also put soldiers on high alert following threats by the MDC that it will march to President Robert Mugabe’s official residence, the state house, to force him to resign.

Zimbabweans remain divided on the course of action to take to force President Mugabe to back down.

Harare resident Joseph Togara says the police will ruthlessly crash the mass action.

The country is grappling with its worst political and economic crisis in years. The economy is in its fourth year of recession with record high unemployment, inflation and acute shortages of fuel and food. The situation is exacerbated by an acute shortage of foreign currency.

Tension remains high in the country. The MDC has asked people to stay alert for its decision on when to begin the proposed mass action.