Zimbabwean opposition protests prevented

Opposition groups in Harare have vowed to continue demonstrating in Zimbabwe, despite a high court ban and largely successful police measures to prevent protests.

    First day of protest smothered,
    but more may follow

    Opposition supporters acknowledged that police had stopped some demonstrations on Monday, but said the week-long protest, organized by the Movement for democratic Change (MDC), was still on.

    "We are going to regroup and Wednesday could be the crunch day. People are slowly gathering courage even in the face of this show of force," said Douglas Mwonzora, a spokesman for the National Constitutional Assembly, an MDC ally.

    President Robert Mugabe’s chief spokesman, Nathan Shamuyarira, described the protests as an illegal attempt to provoke a coup d'etat and warned that anyone taking part in them will "face the full wrath of the law".

    Earlier, the High Court in Zimbabwe banned the protests after police filed an application, saying they would undermine law and order and challenge the country's constitutional democracy.
     
    On Monday morning, police had arrested MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and charged him with contempt of court after being arrested at his home.

    Harare demonstrations

    In Harare, riot police fired tear gas at a crowd of about 6,000 University of Zimbabwe students attempting to march into the city centre, driving them back onto the campus.
     
    Police and army patrols are out in force, with road blocks on the main routes leading into the city centre, and roads around President Mugabe's official residence being secured.
     

    Tsvangirai: arrested, charged and
    released on Monday, has doubted
    the success of demonstrations

    The centre of Harare is reported to be completely shut down, with shops and factories closed.

    The government has showered central Harare with leaflets urging people to ignore the opposition call for action.

    There are also reports of skirmishes between protesters and police in at least two of Harare townships.

    But police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena issued a statement that he had not received many reports of violence.

    Outside the capital

    In Highfield, a township on the capital's outskirts, police fired warning shots into the air and tear gas at a crowd of 500 protesters.

    In a second city, Bulawayo, police and armed troops dispersed protesters and several MDC leaders including two MPs are reported to have been arrested.

    In the central town of Gweru, police said 19 people had been arrested for trying to take part in marches or for being armed with sticks and knives.

    The MDC blames the government for the southern African country's crippling economic problems. Inflation is running at 269% and shortages of food, fuel and bank notes are causing intense hardship.

    President Mugabe, 79, blames the crisis on sanctions from the European Union, the United States and the Commonwealth over alleged vote-rigging by the ruling party in last year's presidential elections. 


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