Hopes are fading in Zimbabwe that a power-sharing deal agreed in September between veteran President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai will end the ruinous political and economic crisis.
The National Constitutional Assembly pressure group said its chairman Lovemore Madhuku had been detained ahead of the protests to demand political reform from Mugabe, who has been in power since 1980.
There was no immediate comment from police or government officials.
Riot police later fired teargas and used batons to break up a protest by about 40 activists from Madhuku’s group in central Harare.
In pursuit of the protesters, armed police dispersed queues of Zimbabweans waiting to withdraw money from banks, witnesses said. At least one person was arrested, they said.
Zimbabweans had hoped the September 15 power-sharing deal would ease political tensions and create a united leadership that could rescue the ruined economy.
Instead, Zimbabwe’s parties are deadlocked over allocating cabinet ministries.
A regional summit failed to break the deadlock at the weekend when leaders asked Mugabe and Tsvangirai to share the powerful home affairs ministry, a demand swiftly rejected by the opposition leader.
Zimbabwe’s state-run Herald newspaper carried two articles accusing Tsvangirai of abandoning the power-sharing deal under orders from U.S. envoys and of getting training from former colonial power Britain to set up a militia in neighbouring Botswana.
An editorial and a commentary by a senior journalist denounced Tsvangirai as a "time-waster" more interested in advancing a Western-backed plot to overthrow Mugabe than genuine power-sharing.
Political journalist Ceasar Zvayi said Tsvangirai could suffer the same fate as Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, who was killed by government troops in 2002 after a bush war of nearly three decades.
"He fell by the sword… Morgan should be wary of the curse of history," he said.
Tsvangirai’s MDC has rejected charges that it is training a a guerrilla army to take on Mugabe. Botswana has dismissed the accusation as ridiculous.