The Movement for Democratic Change, Zimbabwe's main opposition party launched its campaign for the March general elections. Party president Morgan Tsvangirai launched the campaign and presented the party's manifesto before a crowd of some 5,000 party supporters in Zimbabwe's oldest city some 290 kilometers south of Harare.

Mr. Tsvangirai's address to the party faithful was short and to the point; it was time for a change after twenty five years of President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF. He said the ruling party is presiding over economic decay, corruption and mismanagement. He added that the government lacks the capacity to correct the current economic and political crises, the worst since independence in 1980.

The MDC - which suspended participation in all elections last August citing what it called an uneven playing field - only announced its intention to contest the March elections earlier this month. The party leadership said it was bowing to demands by the majority of its supporters to participate. He said despite what he still described as a hostile electoral environment his party is confident of victory.

"We are confident of victory because we have had enough, because we have suffered enough, we are confident that we shall win the popular mandate," said Mr. Tsvangirai. "We are determined to see a new beginning and a new Zimbabwe."

MDC spokesperson for economic affairs Tendai Biti said though he was one of those strongly against participation in the elections the people's desire for change makes him cautiously optimistic. He said he knew in 2000 and, again in 2002, that same feeling existed. But because of the unfair control of the legal process they lost that election. Mr. Biti said he has no illusions about what can happen on March 31st, but it is clear that people don't want Zanu-PF back in power.

The MDC's manifesto lists the economy, agriculture, a new constitution and good governance, a social agenda and women and youth as the key areas it will address if it is voted into power.