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Zimbabwean Rural Areas Terrorized As Post-Election Violence Surges

Post-election violence by ruling party youth militia against supporters of Zimbabwe's opposition continues to rise, a range of sources said on Thursday, with more camps and centers being set up from which ZANU-PF loyalists are said to be terrorizing rural inhabitants and driving many to seek safety in Harare and other cities and towns.

Sources in the town of Gutu in Masvingo Province, in the southeast, said a torture camp has been established at the Chiguhune Business Center there. In Mashonaland West Province northwest of Harare, sources said teachers at the Kenzamba Primary School in Makonde fled after ZANU-PF militia set up a torture camp at the school.

A source in Midlands Province told VOA that another base for the militia was set up at Masosone Primary School in Gokwe.

The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe said many of its members who served as polling officers in the presidential, general and local elections March 29 were being arrested, with 38 detained on Thursday in Masvingo alone.

The union said it is urging its members in volatile rural areas not to report for duty when schools reopen Tuesday unless their safety can be guaranteed.

Opposition activist Stanley Manguma from Gutu, who transported victims to Harare Thursday, told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Gutu West resembles a war zone as militia are indiscriminately attacking the public.

An opposition activist from Muzarabani in Mashonaland Central was said to have died from injuries sustained when beaten Tuesday by soldiers, ruling party youth militia and war veterans at his homestead in an attack in which 20 others were assaulted.

Correspondent Sylvia Manika reported on the incident from Harare.

Youth militia and self-styled war veterans with ties to the ruling party have severely disrupted hospital operations at the Driefontein Mission in Chirumanzu, Midlands.

The Catholic Church-operated Driefontein Sanatorium and Muvonde Hospital were forced to close this week for three days after workers and nurses were threatened by marauding militia and war veterans. The health care facilities reopened late this week, but staff remained fearful for their safety, correspondent Taurai Shava reported.

The workers said the war veterans and ZANU-PF youth had a list of targeted workers including two of the three doctors at the sanatorium who they accused of supporting the Movement for Democratic Change. One of the doctors, identified only as Marimo, left the Sanatorium with his family on Tuesday due to the threats, the workers said.

The war veterans and militia members have been wreaking havoc in the nearby agricultural resettlement areas of Chinu, Nyikavanhu, and Nyumbi Chinu, assaulting people and burning the homes of suspected opposition supporters.

Muvonde Hospital nurses said they have treated several people in the past week who sustained injuries in politically motivated assaults. A Driefontein Mission administrator who was approached by a VOA reporter and identified himself only as Father Shirikadzi said he was not in a position to comment on the situation.

The 350-bed Driefontein Sanatorium is one of the country's biggest hospitals and is known for treating tuberculosis. Police officers at the Driefontein Mission base station confirmed reports of violence in the area but refused to give further details.

But local sources said arrests have been made in connection with the violence.

Francisco Masendeke, a member of MDC formation led by Morgan Tsvangirai and a losing candidate for the Chirumanzu-Zibagwe house seat, condemned the violence and urged ZANU-PF to instruct supporters to desist from such violence.

Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga told reporter Blessing Zulu that the scope of the violence was being exaggerated by the opposition, drawing a sharp response from spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the MDC opposition grouping.

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