by MONITOR

THE tenacity with which the ordinary people of Zimbabwe hold on to the few remaining elements of their democracy is remarkable. At the weekend by-elections took place in two parliamentary constituencies in the capital Harare, previously held by the country's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, whose leader Morgan Tsvangirai has been accused of treason by President Mugabe's government for remarks made during the last general election. Despite a major effort by government forces to terrorise the MDC's supporters and block their access to polling stations, both these parliamentary seats were comfortably held by the opposition. These results will not threaten Mugabe's 150-strong majority in the parliament but they will further frustrate his efforts to get the two-thirds majority he needs to effect constitutional changes. More importantly, they show how important it is for individual governments - especially those in southern Africa - and the Commonwealth as a whole to keep pressure on Mugabe whose brutal efforts over many years to suppress the opposition have failed to knock the democratic spirit out of them. It is probable that these electoral successes will encourage the MDC to step-up its campaign of peaceful protest at Mugabe's regime. This campaign has so far consisted mainly of a two-day strike in mid-March which led to the arrest of Mr Tsvangirai's deputy on allegations of “attempting to overthrow the government by unconstitutinal means.”

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