Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change has accused the Harare government of embarking on a systematic campaign of terror targeting its officials and activists using the secret police and youth militia as instruments of violence.
An MDC statement attributed to founding president Morgan Tsvangirai cited a "sharp escalation in the level of violence against MDC activists across the country." The MDC statement, drafted by Tsvangirai spokesman William Bango, charged that activists are being taken to torture centers at Goromonzi and Hopely Farm, both outside Harare.
The MDC statement said the private Avenues Clinic hospital has taken in another 35 severely injured MDC members who have sustained severe bruises, internal bleeding, broken arms and legs, and skull fractures in official or semi-official beatings.It said state hospitals have been ordered to turn away injured MDC supporters.
Intelligence sources said President Robert Mugabe has personally ordered the harsh treatment of opposition officials and members in conjunction with a crackdown on the general population which has grown restive under deteriorating living conditions. The inflation rate topped 1,700% in February, making survival ever more difficult.
Police and intelligence sources said President Mugabe's office has ordered the CIO to punish opposition members under a campaign code-named “Operation Bash Them.”
The counter-offensive will also target ordinary Zimbabweans, especially in the densely populated suburbs of the capital known to be opposition strongholds. Sources said the plan was put together by the Joint Operation Command, comprising the commander of the army, the commissioner of police and the CIO director general.
The national crisis intensified this week following a a brutal attack Sunday on Nelson Chamisa, a spokesman for the Tsvangirai MDC faction, at Harare International Airport by alleged CIO agents. He was on his way to a meeting in Brussels between African, Caribbean and Pacific nation parliamentarians and their European counterparts in the EU-ACP cooperative structure. Chamisa was still in the airport car park when about eight men attacked him, one of whom battered him with an iron bar.
Chamisa was left unconscious as his assailants drove away after firing shots in the air to keep bystanders at bay. Doctors treating Chamisa said the parliamentarian has a fractured skull and swelling of the brain due to the concussions he sustained.
Chamisa gave an account of the attack to reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe from the hospital where he was being treated on Monday.
Tsvangirai, meanwhile, has stepped up a diplomatic campaign to bring more pressure on the Harare government from the region and beyond. He met Monday with South Africa's ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mlungisi Makhalima, who traveled to Pretoria and back last week, fueling speculation that urgent consultations were taking place.
Pretoria and South African President Thabo Mbeki are also under pressure to exert whatever influence they can bring to bear on Harare for moderation.
Tsvangirai charged in an interview with reporter Blessing Zulu that the government has turned to what he called "hit squads" in a bid to cow the opposition.
More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...