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The BBC's Grant Ferrett in Harare
"Overall, the rally was an impressive display"
 real 28k

David Coltart, MDC legal adviser
"It would be over optimistic to say we sense victory"
 real 28k

Sunday, 18 June, 2000, 17:37 GMT 18:37 UK
Harare rally boosts opposition
MDC supporters
MDC supporters cheer in front of a dilapidated Mugabe mural
A huge rally in Harare by supporters of Zimbabwe's main opposition party has shown the party's strength in the capital - and eclipsed events by the ruling party.



Morgan Tsvangirai at the Harare rally
Tsvangirai: Confident

The 25,000 turnout for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), at the party's last major rally before elections next weekend was a big boost for its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.

By contrast, President Robert Mugabe's governing Zanu-PF could muster only 5,000 supporters for a rally in Harare on Saturday.

But the party atmosphere was punctured by clashes between supporters of Zanu-PF and the MDC, and since then, an attack has been reported on the house of another opposition leader, Margaret Dongo.

Investigation

Mr Tsvangirai told his supporters that the MDC was now certain to win the election, ending 20 years of domination by Zanu-PF.

He said he would set up a national commission to investigate the violence in the run-up to the election, not to punish but to heal wounds.


We seek the peace and healing for a nation tortured for too long

Morgan Tsvangirai, MDC leader
" We will give amnesty to those who tell the truth ... we do not seek revenge," he said.

"We seek the peace and healing for a nation tortured for too long," he added.

The opposition chose the Rufaro Stadium for the last of its big rallies because it was there that Zimbabwe celebrated independence in 1980 after a protracted civil war which brought about the end of white minority rule.

Zanu-PF arrest
A suspected Zanu-PF supporter is led away by police after being beaten at the MDC rally

But the gathering came close to violence. Three men wearing Zanu-PF T shirts narrowly avoided being beaten up by MDC supporters when police intervened.

A group of MDC supporters said they had been attacked on the way to the rally.

Meanwhile Margaret Dongo, one of only three opposition MPs in the outgoing parliament, said that thugs had attacked her home in the late afternoon, injuring five people and causing extensive damage.

She blamed the attack on Zanu-PF supporters.

Climax

The weekend was billed as the climax of the party campaigns before parliamentary elections next weekend.

On Saturday, Mr Tsvangirai addressed a relatively small crowd in a remote rural area, blaming the low turnout on a climate of fear fostered by the ruling party.

Some 2,000 farm workers turned up in Guruve to hear Mr Tsvangirai speak.


President Mugabe's Harare rally suffered a poor turnout

"We cannot accept the situation where anarchy becomes the law," Mr Tsvangirai said.

President Mugabe also received a lukewarm response from smaller than expected crowds at rallies in Harare and Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo.

"We must accept that we have a real battle here," the visibly angry president told the Harare rally.

A survey by the independent Public Opinion Institute suggested the MDC would win 70 of the 120 parliamentary seats.

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See also:

16 Jun 00 | Africa
Opposition boost in Zimbabwe
17 Jun 00 | Africa
Turnout blow for Mugabe
17 Jun 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Living in fear in Zimbabwe
16 Jun 00 | Africa
Mugabe 'misquoted' over mines
06 Jun 00 | Africa
Zimbabwe fear spreads
13 Jun 00 | Africa
Zimbabwe hampers EU observers
14 Apr 00 | Africa
Profile: Morgan Tsvangirai
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