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Opposition Supporters Face Violence in Wake of Zimbabwe Election


Arrests and beatings of opposition supporters in the wake of Zimbabwe's March 31 general election continue. Some opposition supporters have been so badly beaten by police, they have had to be hospitalized.

Sukoluhle Ncube, 48 and the mother of four, has been in the hospital since the day after Zimbabwe's election. She was among the more than 250 women arrested after Zimbabwe police broke up a peaceful post-election prayer gathering in Harare by the grassroots group, Women of Zimbabwe Arise.

According to opposition reports, police beat several of the women during and after their arrest.

In her hospital bed, Mrs. Ncube says she is still sore from the multiple beatings and subsequent bruising from police batons. Medical staff at the private clinic say her skull is cracked, her blood pressure fluctuates wildly, and her condition is not improving.

Of the more than 250 women arrested and detained, eight were hospitalized. All but Mrs. Ncube have since been released from the hospital.

In her hometown of Bulawayo, Mrs. Ncube normally earns money to pay school fees for her two youngest children by knitting jerseys. But she is worried because she says her hands are not working. She said her husband has a job in a textile factory which only operates one day a week, so money is tight.

Mrs. Ncube said she joined Women of Zimbabwe Arise because of the results of Zimbabwe's economic crisis on children.

When the group decided to gather in Harare after the elections, she traveled from Bulawayo for the prayer meeting in solidarity with all of Zimbabwe's women, she said.

When they approached a small park in Central Harare policemen asked them what they were doing in Harare.

"We want to pray. You do not know how to pray?.... they said why did you come here? We said we wanted to come. Lie down. Then they started beating us with sticks kicking us, stepping on our spines, jumping, jumping, jumping saying you are WOZA woman. You are from Bulawayo. You are WOZA here. We do not want to see WOZA here. You are mothers of Bulawayo WOZA.

We know you ....some of you told us.. ..So we laid down there. Then we said, 'Why are you beating us?" Harare does not want people to pray.......? So when we crowded, carrying our traveling bags, kicking us. When those cars come, ..beating us. huh..then we went to Central Police Station. When we reached Central Police station we found too much mothers, huh. Where did they get this women? They were crying some. Some this and that. Some were coming by foot. They were taken from the main station," she said.

Along the corridor in the same hospital west of the center of Harare is Joseph Mukaganise, who hospital staff estimate is in his mid 40's. He also has brain injuries and is largely incoherent. Medical staff say he was wearing an MDC T-shirt when he was taken to the hospital.

His family says he had been to an MDC rally the day before the election, and that eye witnesses say he was knocked over by a small bus filled with ZANU-PF supporters. No one knows whether it was deliberate or an accident.

MDC legislator Nelson Chamisa was arrested last week, kept in leg irons, and says he was tortured in a Harare police station. He has since been released on bail.

About 18 people under the age of 18 said they were beaten severely while in police custody before being released on bail. Police said these arrests were made in connection with a demonstration in central Harare following the announcement of election results that said the MDC had lost to the ruling ZANU-PF, which now has a two-thirds majority in parliament.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said he was not aware of anyone having been hurt by police during post election arrests.