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Activists Say Police Continue Brutalizing Zimbabweans Out of Spotlight

Zimbabwean police this week launched attacks against activists in communities around Harare. VOA's Delia Robertson reports from our southern Africa bureau in Johannesburg, that reports of the violence are coming from doctors and community organizations who say more than 100 people have been injured.

Mike Davies, chairman of the Combined Harare Residents' Association, who was himself detained two weeks ago, told reporters the wave of violence is more systematic and comprehensive than that meted out to political leaders last week.

Mr. Davies says the police attacks, which usually take the form of beatings on the feet and legs, is designed to instill fear and keep Zimbabweans cowed.

He added that President Robert Mugabe is using the violence to promote his agenda.

Earlier this week, Mr. Mugabe told his critics "to go hang" and promised to, in his words "bash" his opponents again.

Doctors have told VOA that it is difficult to know how many people have been injured as many cannot afford bus fares to reach medical help. One doctor said the injuries are more pervasive than those he saw during the 2002 presidential election and that many patients are able only to hobble out of his clinic.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwean Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube told a Johannesburg media conference that leaders of the Southern Africa Development Community -- SADC -- should come up with specific proposals to deal with the Zimbabwe crisis when they meet in Tanzania in the next week or two.

"On the forthcoming SADC meeting, heads of state need to place Zimbabwe high on the agenda and to develop a concrete proposal on how to promote dialogue between all parties in Zimbabwe; the purpose of this dialogue would be to develop a SADC road map for Zimbabwe," he said.

Tendai Biti, a member of parliament who belongs to the opposition group Movement for Democratic Change, also addressed the Johannesburg conference. He was among those activists who were beaten in police custody last week. Speaking to reporters, he said that any dialogue in Zimbabwe must lead to a new constitution.

"A dialogue that will ensure that we have a transitional constitution, and a transitional authority that will run our country until we Zimbabweans write a constitution for ourselves, by ourselves," said Biti.

"And after that, we hope that we will have free and fair elections in our country under international supervision, and then hopefully after those free and fair elections we can begin the process of reconstructing our country," he added.

In a related development, there are reports of a three-page police watch list of individuals Zimbawe authorities want to prevent from leaving Zimbabwe. Last weekend, several opposition leaders were stopped at Harare International Airport and were not allowed to leave the country.