20 March 2002

Zimbabwe stoppage is illegal, say police

Zimbabwean police yesterday described as "illegal" a three-day general strike by the main trade union called to protest against the government's harassment of workers since the state-rigged presidential elections. With workers due to begin the strike today, Wayne Bvudzijena, chief police spokesman, said: "Their actions are manifestly illegal. We have got a labour movement which wants to take action and make an expression on issues pertaining to the presidential elections. In our opinion that is a political position they have adopted and we view their action as illegal."

Wellington Chibhebhe, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), was "invited" to Harare Central Police Station for questioning late on Monday and released after several hours. The strike will be the first direct challenge to 78-year-old President Mugabe since his re-election last week for a fifth term. Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, said yesterday that he supported the strike and rejected negotiations with Mr Mugabe until the rule of law was restored and instruments of state-sponsored violence were dismantled. He said Mr Mugabe had launched a campaign of retribution against MDC members, particularly in rural areas. "We have received shocking reports and have a refugee problem in Harare and in the provinces." Outside the MDC's central Harare office, hundreds of displaced people gathered to seek assistance and see Mr Tsvangirai. (ZMNews / Daily Telegraph, UK)

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