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Rights Groups Say Political Repression in Rural Zimbabwe Still Rampant

Despite seeming progress in crisis resolution talks taking place under South African mediation, human rights groups say those living in Zimbabwe’s rural areas continue to experience political repression which remains rampant and under-reported.

Reports released by member organizations of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum say opposition members in rural areas who are seen wearing items of clothing with the logo of the opposition, reading independent papers, or listening to independent radio stations such as VOA's Studio 7, are beaten up, or “severely punished.”

A Zimbabwe Peace Project report says most cases of “political victimization” happen in Midlands and Mashonaland East provinces, and the main perpetrators are ZANU-PF militants and state agents, though some are attributed to opposition members.

In a certain percentage of cases the affiliation of perpetrators is unknown.

The Peace Project, which monitors such occurrences nationally, said gender-based violence continues with two cases of politically inspired rape recorded recently.

The group says some villagers have been displaced for backing the opposition, noting that such evictions often are preceded by gatherings of local ruling party backers who sing songs of the 1970s liberation struggle at night at the homes of the victims.

Village headmen and chiefs tell those who do not support the ruling party to look to Britain or Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, for land and food.

Zimbabwe Peace Project Director Jestina Mukoko tells reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that more and more cases of repression in the rural areas are being reported as the build-up to 2008 elections gathers momentum.

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