Zimbabwe holds vice president of opposition

April 01, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - Opponents of Zimbabwe President Robert G. Mugabe apparently sealed their political control over Harare in weekend parliamentary elections, but the triumph was marred yesterday by the arrest of an opposition leader.

Gibson Sibanda, vice president of the Movement for Democratic Change, the nation's main opposition party, was arrested in his hometown of Bulawayo as security forces increased their patrols of the capital's main boulevards and around Mugabe's home.

The opposition had set yesterday as a deadline for compliance with 15 demands aimed at restoring media freedoms, disbanding government militias and releasing all political prisoners. The demands were issued two weeks ago at the end of a two-day strike that crippled business and industry.

Mugabe responded to the strike with a violent crackdown against the opposition, ordering the police to arrest hundreds of opposition party leaders and followers and charge them with inciting unrest.

An attorney for Sibanda said Sibanda had been accused of violating laws that forbid political demonstrations without government clearance.

Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi said on state-controlled radio that increased security measures were taken to "thwart any attempts to cause anarchy."

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