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Some Zimbabwe Officials Preach Tolerance, But Rural Violence Continues

Reports of violence against rural supporters of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change continued to emerge Tuesday despite scattered moves by lower level officials of President Robert Mugabe's ruling party to restrain his partisans.

Violence allegedly organized by Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party has mounted in rural Zimbabwe since the opposition Movement for Democratic Change claimed a majority in the lower house of parliament in March 29 general elections, and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai outpolled Mr. Mugabe in a presidential poll. The violence is believed to be intended to prepare for a presidential run-off election.

Sources in Mashonaland said village headman Elias Kahari of Madziwanzira, Shamva North constituency, Mashonaland Central Province, was murdered by youth militia of Mr. Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party on Sunday because his ward had elected many district council members from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

A source in the Uzumba constituency of Mashonaland East said a woman identified as Mbuya (Granny) Mushayavanhu died Sunday after being attacked by militia, and her husband was said to be in critical condition in a local hospital.

Homes of opposition members were reported to have been burned in the Mukumbura area of the Mount Darwin constituency in Mashonaland Central Province.

Sources in Midlands Province said around eight MDC activists had been picked up by police since late Monday on charges that they had engaged in violence.

In eastern Manicaland Province, detectives were seeking former mayor and Mutasa South parliamentarian Misheck Kagurabadza on unspecified charges.

In Kadoma, Mashonaland West, five opposition members including Kadoma Central parliamentarian Editor Matamisa were picked up by detectives Tuesday on charges they burned the restaurant of former mayor and unsuccessful ZANU-PF candidate Fani Phiri. Matamisa was released but the other activists were still being held.

Some ZANU-PF officials were reported to be urging supporters of President Mugbabe to abstain from violence. Kenneth Mutiwekuziva, a ZANU-PF information secretary in Mashonaland East Province, was said to have preached political tolerance. Sources said police in Masvingo Province were shutting down alleged torture bases established by ZANU-PF youth militia and liberation war veterans.

But opposition lawmaker Editor Matamisa of Kadoma told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that she and her fellow opposition members were still living in fear because they believe police have targeted MDC members.

The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe said it intends to file a lawsuit against Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri to compel him to close bases in rural schools from which youth militia and war veterans are terrorizing local residents.

The union said it is gathering evidence and will file the suit in high court late this week.

PTUZ Secretary General Raymond Majongwe said some 464 schools have shut their doors since the beginning of May due to mounting violence. About 5,000 teachers are said to have fled, leaving around 260,000 children without instructors.

Majongwe charged that ZANU-PF youth militia are obliging girls in rural communities to take part in nightlong "vigils" in the course of which they are being raped. He said nine girls in Mudzi, Mashonaland East Province, were recently molested.

Teacher Kennedy Mhuri of Nyamakuyo Primary School in Mudzi, who fled after being threatened, told reporter Patience Rusere that children from 15 years up are being taken into the bush at night to chant slogans and undergo ZANU-PF indoctrination.

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