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Zimbabwe Opposition Calls on Gov't to Respect Democracy - 2003-12-21

Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, ended its two-day annual conference in Harare with a call on the Mugabe government to restore the rule of law.

The MDC called on the government to restore freedoms of association, assembly, movement and expression, to end political violence, and to repeal repressive legislation.

MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai said that, contrary to President Robert Mugabe's claim that talks are taking place between the two parties, no serious progress has been made.

He said his party would therefore go back to various forms of mass action and protests in order to get Mr. Mugabe to the negotiating table.

"People have to engage in non-violent democratic resistance against this regime," said Mr. Tsvangirai. "It is one of the options available. The pressure has to come from the people, it has to come from all quarters, internationally, nationally."

The opposition party says it has in place what it calls a post-war economic model to pull the Zimbabwean economy back from the brink. Zimbabwe is experiencing its worst economic crisis since independence 23 years ago. Inflation is more than 600 percent and rising, more than 70 percent of the workforce is unemployed.

A chronic shortage of necessities has resulted in a thriving black market where prices are so high the majority of the country's citizens cannot afford them.