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Last Updated:  Thursday, 20 March, 2003, 10:28 GMT
Ultimatum after Zimbabwe strike
Riot police patrol in Harare
Police say the strike was a failure
Zimbabwe's main opposition party has threatened to repeat the strike action of the past two days if their demands for political change are not met by the end of the month.

Most shops and industries in Zimbabwe's main cities remained closed on Wednesday, the second day of a strike, which the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) hailed as an overwhelming success.

The MDC said million of people had shown they were "no longer willing to live under tyranny and poverty".

And it demanded that the regime of President Robert Mugabe "immediately embark upon a programme to dismantle the basis of its tyranny".

"The events of the last two days are simply the beginning of the march towards freedom," it said.

'Sick and tired'

The BBC's Lewis Machipisa in Harare said police fired live ammunition on Wednesday to disperse opposition activists who were throwing stones at cars in the suburb of Glen View.

The police also accused opposition activists of planning a series of explosions in the central town of Kadoma.

Correspondents say this has been the most successful strike for several years.

Petrol queue in Harare
Queues have become a way of life in Zimbabwe

"People are sick and tired of this regime and this is their message," said MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi.

The government has not yet commented on the strike but the police described it as illegal and a total failure.

More than 60 people, including two MDC MPs have been arrested in acts of violence around the country.

"In Kadoma, MDC youths, in acts of terrorism, were instructed and placed early yesterday morning dynamite intending to destroy bridges, supermarkets, shops and vital installations to cripple any legal and normal activities in the town," police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said.

Mr Bvudzijena also warned that the police were looking for the "ringleaders" behind the violence, prompting MDC Vice-President Gibson Sibanda to go into hiding in the second city of Bulawayo.

The BBC's Themba Nkosi in Bulawayo said the city was like a ghost town on Wednesday.

Our correspondent said police had also set up roadblocks on major routes into central Harare and had searched cars.

Government offices and banks have been open but many employees were unable to get to work because of the lack of public transport.

Shortages

The strike was supported by unions and other civic groups.

Zimbabwe is suffering shortages of everything from food and fuel to cotton wool.

Inflation is running at more than 200% and many factories have closed down, leading to massive unemployment.

Half of the population, some seven million people, need food aid.

Mr Mugabe blames the problems on sabotage by foreign enemies opposed to his land reform programme.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Paul Themba Nyathi, MDC spokesman on Network Africa
"It has been a very disciplined show of dissent"



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