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Zimbabwe Activists Allege Beatings, Torture During Visit By S. Africa's Mbeki

Leaders of Zimbabwe's National Constitutional Assembly, an advocacy group, said 22 members who protested in Harare on Thursday were beaten by security forces even as South African President Thabo Mbeki visited to press a crisis solution.

On his one-day visit to Harare, Mr Mbeki met with President Robert Mugabe, senior officials of the ruling ZANU-PF party and both factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change for top-level consultations on the crisis negotiations he has been mediating since March on behalf of the Southern African Development Community

MDC officials told Mr. Mbeki they believe ZANU-PF is merely giving lip service to the need for democratic reform, and accused Mr. Mugabe of launching a further violent crackdown on critics. Mr. Mugabe accused the opposition of political gimmickry.

But NCA officials maintain that even as Mr Mugabe was denying that his government employed violence against opponents, agents of his Central Intelligence Organization and ZANU-PF youth militia were beating and torturing NCA demonstrators.

The civic group said activists were seized by alleged security agents and youth militia after demonstrating in Harare along Mr. Mbeki’s travel route to express opposition to a constitutional amendment agreed by parties to the talks and passed by parliament.

The NCA said its members were taken to the ruling party's headquarters for Harare Province and severely beaten before being handed over to the police. The activists were released at midnight and 11 were hospitalized, the organization said.

NCA activist Tendai Nyamaropa told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he and others were beaten and subjected to torture.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...