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Zimbabwe Opposition Plans Anti-Mugabe Protests Next Week - 2003-05-25


The leader Zimbabwe's main opposition party has announced the dates of the long-awaited mass action to force President Robert Mugabe out of office. The action is to begin with prayers.

In a speech before more than 10,000 of his supporters in the capital, Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai said they must prepare with prayers for four days starting Tuesday.

Saying that since general strikes did not seem to move Mr. Mugabe, his party is calling for its supporters to take part in a week of "democratic marches" starting Monday of next week.

The party organized a widely observed two-day general strike in March.

Mr. Tsvangirai also re-iterated his commitment to unconditional talks with the president on the political and economic crises facing the country. President Mugabe recently agreed to meet with Mr. Tsvangirai, whom he dismisses as a "puppet" of the British.

But the president says he will only meet with the opposition leader if Mr. Tsvangirai withdraws a court petition that seeks to nullify the president's victory in controversial presidential elections last year. The elections were described as not free or fair by a number of mainly western observer groups.

Mr. Tsvangirai says his party is not going to withdraw the court case, saying if they did that then there would be no reason for the talks.

Zimbabwe is experiencing its worst economic crisis since independence 23 years ago. Due to a shortage of foreign currency the country is experiencing crippling fuel and electricity shortages. Basic commodities are also in short supply and consumers have to spend hours in lines to get items such as bread, sugar, cooking oil and the staple maize meal.