Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change said suspected members of the Central Intelligence Organization aiming to suppress protests abducted provincial officers of the party’s youth wing along with members of their families, beat them and threatened them with worse if they organized protests against the government.
In interviews, several victims of the crackdown said the apparent government agents threatened them with death if they tried to mobilize people to demonstrate in keeping with a call by MDC founding president Morgan Tsvangirai for mass protests. Some said they were warned against speaking with Studio 7, a Voice of America program broadcast to Zimbabwe in three languages for 90 minutes on weekday evenings..
Those abducted and beaten asked not to be identified for fear of suffering reprisals.
The alleged official violence against the opposition in Zimbabwe's eastern provinces came on the heels of a stern warning by President Robert Mugabe on Independence Day - April 18 - that the government will come down hard on those who challenge it. Tsvangirai has said he won't be intimidated, setting up a potential confrontation.
Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the MDC faction led by Tsvangirai provided details on the provincial violence to reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe.
The National Constitutional Assembly, meanwhile, said its coordinator for Harare, the capital, was abducted and severely beaten by suspected militants of the ruling ZANU-PF party, then dumped 50 kilometers outside Harare on the highway to Bindura.
Studio 7 correspondent Irwin Chifera filed a report on the attack on the NCA official.
Security forces were also reported to be active. Residents of the Harare satellite city of Chitungwiza said heavily armed police were patrolling streets and dispersing those gathering in groups of more than four people, and also pursuing street vendors.
Studio 7 correspondent Ben Chaleka filed a report from Chitungwiza.
In other political news, the leader of the MDC faction that has challenged Tsvangirai's leadership, Arthur Mutambara, issued a statement saying faction members who have "developed cold feet or doubts about the efficacy of our values" should resign.
The MDC has been divided into so-called pro-senate and anti-senate factions since October 2005, when the leadership of the country's main opposition party fell out over the question of participating in or boycotting the senate elections held in November. Mutambara, a former student leader who has spent much of his adult life outside Zimbabwe, was recruited to lead the pro-senate faction early this year.
Mutambara's statement came after the resignation of his faction's national chairman, Gift Chimanikire, the third top official to jump ship. Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere asked Chimanikire why he decided to abandon the Mutambara faction.