Police in the eastern Zimbabwean city of Mutare on Monday beat and set dogs on dozens of people lined up to buy sugar, witnesses and other sources said.
Reports conflicted as to how many people were bitten by the police dogs, as many of those said to have come under attack by the police fled the scene.
Spokesman Pishai Muchauraya of the Mutare branch of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change's Morgan Tsvangirai faction said his organization has identified 10 people who were bitten and has helped them obtain medical treatment.
Eyewitnesses said about 45 police officers descended on shoppers, beating them with batons and setting the dogs on them. After dispersing those who had been queuing, witnesses said, the police and their families reportedly started buying the sugar.
In another episode reflecting desperation for food in the country, Muchauraya said a young child was killed last week in a stampede at a SPAR supermarket in Mutare.
No details or comment from police in Mutare on the police action against the shoppers Monday could be obtained, as calls were not going through the telephone network.
Sakubva resident Chipo Mwatsa, one of those bitten by the police dogs, told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that she and others were quietly queuing for sugar thus the police onslaught was entirely unjustified.