- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 23, 2003

HARARE, Zimbabwe (Agence France-Presse) Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe yesterday vowed "greater action" against the main opposition party, which he accuses of wanting to overthrow his government.
Mr. Mugabe slammed the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and its work stoppage this week, declaring that from now on there would be "greater vigor, greater vigilance and greater action by my government."
His comments came as a farmers group said soldiers had beaten nearly 30 farm workers, and the MDC said hundreds of its supporters were abducted in night raids by military agents.
Rights groups say there has been increased repression of perceived opposition supporters since a widely followed work stoppage earlier this week closed down urban areas.
In comments carried by state television, Mr. Mugabe told hundreds of youths from his ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), "We shall not treat them with soft gloves anymore."
The stoppage, which was organized to protest purported misgovernance, has aroused the ire of Mr. Mugabe and his government. They blame the MDC for violence during the strike, in which several vehicles were stoned and burned.
Mr. Mugabe said the stoppage was a "flop."
"They can't tell the world that they succeeded, because their target was to overthrow our government," he told cheering supporters at his party's headquarters in Harare.
And he said black MDC supporters were really whites. "Yes, you wear our skin, but below that skin, you are white." Mr. Mugabe's government regularly accuses the MDC of being a front for white interests and former colonial power Britain.
"We want peace, peace, peace and stability," he said.
Meanwhile, the farmers' group Justice for Agriculture (JAG) said that on Friday soldiers assaulted workers on a farm next to the one leased by opposition legislator Roy Bennett, near the town of Ruwa.
Twenty-eight workers had to be hospitalized after the attack, the group said.
A police spokesman contacted by AFP was not able to confirm the attack.
"The uniformed military … came in and beat the workers," JAG said in a statement.
Earlier this week, soldiers were reported to have attacked workers on a farm leased by Mr. Bennett in Ruwa, outside Harare.
Opposition spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi said, "Hundreds of our officials and supporters have been abducted from their homes during the night and tortured in ZANU-PF torture camps" in the past 24 hours.
Human rights group Amnesty International said in a statement that it was concerned by a "new and dangerous phase of repression" in the southern African country.

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