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Zimbabwe Opposition Alleges Escalating State Campaign Of Violence

The faction of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai on Tuesday called on the ZANU-PF ruling to stop political violence and respect the spirit of ongoing South African-brokered crisis talks.

VOA Harare correspondent Irwin Chifera reports that the Tsvangirai led faction has appealed to the Southern African Development Community to take action on the alleged campaign of violence by state security agents and ZANU-PF militants.

Civic groups say their members are feeling pressure too. Political experts say violence historically has risen when elections are on the horizon in Zimbabwe.

But police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena, an assistant commissioner of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, dismissed the opposition charges in an interview, saying officials are not receiving reports consistent with the level of violence the MDC alleges.

Bvudzijena said the accusations have been made for political reasons.

Civic groups including Women of Zimbabwe Arise, the Zimbabwe National Students Union and the National Constitutional Assembly say their members are regularly taken into custody, beaten and tortured by state security agents.

Tsvangirai faction spokesman Nelson Chamisa cites the case of Maxwell Mazambani, a candidate for Ward 5 in local elections in Gutu, Masvingo Province last year, who he said is battling for his life in a Harare hospital after being assaulted by soldiers and ZANU-PF supporters, allegedly at the instigation of Selina Mumbengegwi, wife of Finance Minister Samuel Mumbengegwi, owner of a Masvingo farm.

Chamisa said that another Masvingo MDC activist, Fibion Mafukidze, died from those same beatings. The matter has been reported in the local independent press, but Bvudzijena said he had no information on the incident.

Police sources in Masvingo said the minister’s wife accused the activists of stealing farm equipment. But Mazambane said the attack was politically motivated.

Gweru Urban Ward 5 Acting Chairman Samuel Gumbo of the Tsvangirai MDC faction told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe in an interview that he was also assaulted by police and then dumped in a wooded area.

Elsewhere, a spokesman for the National Constitutional Assembly, a leading civil society group, said 40 members were seriously injured on Tuesday when riot police assailed them with batons during a protest in Harare.

Spokesman Maddock Chivasa said an elderly woman sustained a broken arm in the melee and a male demonstrator suffered a deep cut on his forehead. He told VOA the marchers were peacefully proceeding to the parliament in central Harare to submit a petition opposing a constitutional amendment that was recently passed.

Chivasa told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that some of those injured were admitted to a private hospital in the capital.

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