Zimbabwe bans rally over anti-Mugabe protest fears
HARARE, July 8 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe police have banned opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai from addressing a rally in a major town over fears he is mobilising support for anti-government protests, his party said on Saturday.
Tsvangirai's main Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has warned President Robert Mugabe to brace for wave of "peaceful democratic resistance" against his 26-year rule if he continues to resist political reforms. But it has not given dates.
MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said on Saturday police in the gold mining city of Kwekwe in central Zimbabwe had refused to sanction an MDC rally planned for Sunday, saying Tsvangirai was "inciting" his supporters to stage violent political protests.
"Our application was turned down on the grounds that we are using these rallies to mobilise for violent demonstrations when in reality we are on a mass mobilisation campaign for peaceful democratic resistance," he told reporters.
"The government is scared, and they have refused our party the right to hold meetings in some areas in the last few weeks but we have been allowed in others," he added.
The police were not immediately available to comment.
Rights groups say Zimbabwe security forces -- who have been on high alert for political trouble since February -- have stepped up a crackdown on Mugabe's critics to derail possible anti-government protests fuelled by a deepening economic crisis.
Mugabe has told Tsvangirai any effort to force him out of power would be "dicing with death".
Last month a leading think tank warned Zimbabwe was increasingly likely to become a failed state plagued by unrest and violence if the world community does not act to address its deep political and economic crisis.
The International Crisis Group said Zimbabwe's political tensions had left Mugabe's government "increasingly desperate and dangerous" with no clear plan for resolving the southern African country's woes.
Critics say Mugabe -- in office since independence from Britain in 1980 -- should accept responsibility for an economic meltdown that has seen Zimbabwe's inflation rise to nearly 1,200 percent and unemployment soar above 70 percent as residents struggle with chronic shortages of food, fuel and power.
Mugabe, 82, says he is not to blame for the economic problems, saying they stem from sabotage by his domestic and Western opponents in retaliation for his seizure of white-owned commercial farms for blacks.
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