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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 02:08 GMT
Zimbabwe's climate of fear
Murdered opposition supporter is buried
Violence is continuing as the election approaches
New evidence of violence against opponents of Zimbabwe's Government in the run-up to next month's presidential elections has been obtained by the BBC.

Families of victims have spoken of beatings, murders and disappearances, in footage recorded at a secret safe house for opposition supporters.

The attacks on the innocent women and children... is an indication of the desperation of Zanu-PF to win at any cost

Opposition supporter
One such victim was Trymore Midzi, an activist for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

Trymore's family says he was killed by militants linked to the ruling Zanu-PF party.

It took Trymore's family several days to obtain permission to bury him, because of his opposition credentials.

Militants on the increase

Despite the upheaval gripping white farmers, it is ordinary black Zimbabweans who are paying the highest price in the country's crisis.

Opposition activists have been attacked by Mugabe's supporters
Opposition supporter displays scars on his back

At a secret location, opposition activists showed scars from attacks by what human rights groups say is an increasing number of pro-government militias.

Despite the focus on the so-called war veterans, human rights groups say many other pro-government militias have been formed ahead of the presidential poll and they tolerate no dissent.

"The attacks on the innocent women and children in the absence of the men at work in the cities is an indication of the desperation of Zanu-PF to win at any cost," one woman said, holding a young child with a scarred face.

Mugabe blamed

After 22 years in power, President Robert Mugabe is accused by his opponents of orchestrating all the violence in order to save his political career.

Zimbabweans leave
Many Zimbabweans are leaving the country ahead of the election

"You must stand your ground, defend your situation, defend your family. We are entitled to do that, but please, we shouldn't go assaulting people," he said as he launched his presidential campaign at the weekend.

But many ordinary Zimbabweans are not waiting for the chance to vote, they are simply leaving.

Hundreds are escaping to South Africa every day.

President Mugabe has not banned European election observers from attending the poll and for the moment that seems to have convinced the EU to step back from a decision to implement targeted sanctions.

See also:

03 Feb 02 | Africa
Mugabe opponent enters fray
01 Feb 02 | Africa
Mugabe launches defiant campaign
01 Feb 02 | Africa
Media rounds on Zimbabwe law
08 Jan 02 | Africa
Zimbabwe's controversial bills
30 Jan 02 | Africa
Suspension 'not the answer'
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