Doctors caring for the victims of the Zimbabwe government's ongoing crackdown on officials and members of the political and civic opposition say they have treated some 600 activists in the Harare, the capital, and eastern Mutare alone since mid-March.
Opposition sources said authorities have targeted both factions of the Movement for Democratic Change - though in particular the faction led by party founder Morgan Tsvangirai - members of the National Constitutional Assembly, a prominent civic group, and the Combined Harare Residents Association.
Hospital data indicate that in Harare alone, 500 activists have been treated after being abducted by suspected government agents, tortured, then dumped by roadsides. The hospital sources estimated that there have been about 100 cases in Mutare.
Sources also told VOA that agents of the feared Central Intelligence Organization are now operating under police uniform cover while abducting activists.
Even in police detention, activists are being beaten and tortured, opposition sources said. Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri justified the continuing crackdown with the charge that opposition forces were engaging in “acts of domestic terrorism.”
Journalist Edward Chikomba was abducted on Saturday, April 7, and found dead one day later on Sunday, April 8. The Independent newspaper of London reported the he had been murdered for smuggling a video out of the country that showed how badly Tsvangirai had been beaten while in police custody from March 11 to March 13.
Abducted activists are being dumped mainly in remote areas of Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland West - both provinces dominated by the ruling ZANU-PF party.
But abductions are being reported in other towns and in rural areas. In Masvingo two MDC youth activists, Gilson Magazini and Trymore Manyuchi, were abducted Thursday by men in police uniforms and have not been seen since.
Lawyer Tongai Matutu, a member of parliament for the MDC Tsvangirai faction told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Masvingo police told him they have no record of arresting or detaining the two youths.
Meanwhile. police continued to hold 10 of 11 MDC officials and members granted bail on Thursday by the Harare magistrate and high courts. The activists have denied charges that they organized a recent spate of firebombings of police posts.
Attorney Alec Muchadehama, representing the activists, said that by the time lawyers had obtained release orders, the court clerk to whom they had to be submitted had left before schedule and so his clients were taken back into custody by police.
Police continued to defy a high court order instructing them to return computers and documents seized in a March 28 raid on the headquarters of the Tsvangirai faction.
Authorities said the raid was staged to search for evidence related to the firebombing attacks last month. But opposition officials said the police left a trail of destruction behind them, knocking down doors and destroying furniture and computers.
The 10 faction members being held by Harare police were arrested that day.
Faction spokesman Nelson Chamisa said the government's intention in seizing or destroying MDC equipment was to paralyze the political opposition.