|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) had planned to march on parliament on Wednesday, accusing President Robert Mugabe's government of trying to take away democratic rights by introducing new arrangements for next year's presidential election.
They say the arrests took place in Harare's city centre on Wednesday afternoon as heavily armed riot police easily dispersed a small crowd gathered for the protest action.
Political tension has risen sharply in Zimbabwe over the past week, with President Mugabe denouncing the opposition as terrorists.
The NCA, a coalition of trade unions, church groups and human rights organisations are also opposed to plans to stop pressure groups from taking part in voter education and election monitoring and making the government's sponsored electoral commission the sole authority instead.
NCA spokesman Douglas Mwonza said 18 of those arrested are their members.
Their lawyer said they are being held on "public violence" charges, according to the French news agency, AFP.
Police have confirmed the detention of 17 people belonging to the NCA.
Early on Wednesday police armed with shotguns, teargas, shields and batons had deployed in force ahead of the planned mass protest, but only a small group of about 50 activists turned up.
The Reuters news agency reported that the demonstrators were quickly chased away when they began to march towards parliament.
Riot squad officers had also surrounded the parliament building and began patrolling Harare's central business district and a nearby square where protestors traditionally congregate.
Presidential elections are due next year and it is expected that President Robert Mugabe would face his stiffest challenge yet from the opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai.
Earlier this week he confirmed that he would run after the Supreme Court ruled that terrorism charges against him, relating to a speech he made at a Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) rally last September, were unconstitutional.