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Friday, 15 March, 2002, 16:08 GMT
What next for Zimbabwe's opposition?
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai
Morgan Tsvangirai is pondering the MDC's futures

The Zimbabwean opposition is still reeling from an election it considers has been stolen by President Robert Mugabe.

Not only is the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in political limbo - but its leader may also end up in jail.

Zimbabwean police
Police are out in force in Harare
The MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, is likely to face treason charges arising from a videotape allegedly incriminating him in a plot to kill President Mugabe, an accusation he denies.

Welshman Ncube, the MDC's secretary-general was briefly detained this week after treason charges were brought against him.

Mr Tsvangirai and other party leaders have given no details about their post-election strategy - apart from stressing that they intend to remain within the law. But their options appear limited.

Civil disobedience

The MDC could challenge the government in the courts, through industrial action and street protests.

But President Mugabe has managed to subdue the judiciary, and seems determined to prevent industrial unrest.

On Thursday police used tear gas to disperse crowds in Harare and prevent leaders of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) - an MDC ally - from meeting to discuss possible protest strikes.

Welshman Ncube
Ncube is accused of treason
Under new, restrictive security laws, it is illegal in Zimbabwe to call for a general strike, and police are allowed to cancel political rallies.

If the opposition cannot beat the presidential machine, why not join it?

South African president Thabo Mbeki is reported to be recommending a government of National Unity for Zimbabwe, bringing together Mr Mugabe as president and Mr Tsvangirai as vice-president.

Sharing power

President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria is said to be in favour of the plan. Both Mr Mbeki and Mr Obasanjo are on the Commonwealth panel that is to adjudicate on the elections next week.

But even if Mr Mugabe were to welcome into his government an MDC leader he regards as an agent of Britain, the reviled former colonial power, it is far from clear what Mr Tsvangirai would gain by sharing power.

Deserted bus stop
Trade unions have organised strikes in the past
Analysts say Mr Mugabe has shown he is not a consensus politician. Any party in his government would have to share his agenda without reservations.

Another option for the MDC could be to focus its political activities on strongholds such as the capital, Harare.

As expected, an MDC candidate, Elias Mudzuri, has been elected mayor of the city.

Control of Harare could give the party a chance to show its ability to govern.

However Mr Mudruzi is not a nationally-known figure, and the central government casts a long shadow over local politics. Mr Mugabe sacked the previous mayor three years ago, and the city was subsequently run by a government-appointed committee.

Wait and see

Given all these obstacles, the MDC could pin its hopes on the medium term.

Mr Mugabe is 78 years old, and the party could have another chance well before 2008.

But in the short term, a wait-and-see attitude could mean watching the country complete its descent into chaos.

No wonder the MDC is taking a long time weighing its options: none of them look appealing.

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13 Mar 02 | Africa
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