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Zimbabwe Opposition Plans More Protests - 2003-06-05

Zimbabwe's opposition says it will try again on Friday to demonstrate in the capital and other key areas against the rule of President Robert Mugabe. A nationwide strike by the opposition has paralyzed much of Zimbabwe's business life and led to a violent crackdown by government security forces.

Opposition member of parliament Tendai Biti, who was arrested Monday at a protest in the capital, says he saw almost 100 people in cells at Harare Central Police Station, who had been assaulted by the security forces this week.

According to Mr. Biti, he was one of only five people in the cells who was not assaulted. He was released on bail on Wednesday night, after being charged with violating Zimbabwe's security laws.

The legislator said he would be back on the streets on Friday, even though he expected a fresh round of state-sponsored violence and arrests.

Mr. Biti said the Movement for Democratic Change had to continue to push forward, and had gained important experience this week. He said no one in Zimbabwe had ever before tried to peacefully manage the politics of change, and that the MDC had learned important lessons, despite the violence.

Doctors working on injured people this week said one clinic alone had treated more than 80 people. A doctor who asked not to be named said the nature of the injuries this week were the most serious he had seen in three years of unrest.

And opposition officials say hundreds of other people had been assaulted this week, but had not gone to hospitals or clinics for treatment.

Friday is the last day of the opposition's week of protests. Before they began, President Robert Mugabe vowed he would crush them. Opposition leaders concede that, so far, this is a promise the president has succeeded in carrying out.