Page last updated at 08:04 GMT, Thursday, 17 April 2008 09:04 UK

Witness: Spreading fear in Zimbabwe

Charles, a Zimbabwean human rights expert, has told the BBC how he saw for himself the victims of beatings and torture that have been reported since the elections.

He said he accompanied a friend to a hospital in Harare, where people were being treated, and what he saw and heard makes him fear for the future of the country.

These people had been transported to Harare to get treatment, some of them from communities about 200km from Harare.

Head injury
This man was beaten after he was accused of supporting the opposition

They had been beaten up, burned, some had ribs broken. Some of them had big wounds like they had been exposed to physical torture or been exposed to heat of some kind.

I've been involved in this sort of work a long time and at one point suffered the same kind of physical abuse in 2001. Back then, I was brought to the same hospital for treatment so it was shocking for me. Over the last five or six years I haven't seen anything like that.

I thought - I've been here before. We are back to that very difficult period where violence has become the order of the day.

If you look at 1999 and 2000, it was mainly in the rural areas, and that seems to be true this time as well. It is a "re-education" process for the rural electorate. A lot of people might not have access to media to know what is happening. It is a terrible situation out there.

Orchestrated campaign

I had the chance to meet a woman who had run away from a rural area where she had been identified as an MDC activist. She was telling stories about groups beating up people. There is a lot of fear. People are worried about when they are going to get a knock on the door and what is going to happen to them.

I think playing around with people's consciences will plunge the country into unprecedented chaos

The people in the hospital had different stories.

One man said the Zanu-PF youth and militias had gone to a MDC agent and got a list of all the MDC supporters in the village, then they went on a campaign of visiting houses and assaulting people.

Others were told there was a meeting in the village they had to attend. Then people were being called in individually and beaten up.

One young girl I saw at the hospital said they came to her door and asked for mother. She said her mother was not there, because she was hiding, but they broke into the house and found her mother and punished the girl for lying.

I think it is a well-orchestrated move that involves the intelligence services and state institutions.

Infrastructure crumbling

The nation deserves to know what the results of the presidential elections are. It is going to be a difficult job trying to rebuild Zimbabwe, but I think people would rather start now.

Boy in front of burnt hut
Opposition supporters have been targeted in rural areas

Zimbabwe needs to re-establish relations with the rest of the world, let us get on with the job.

There is a reasonable chance that the people who have had the ballot boxes have rigged them.

I think playing around with people's consciences will plunge the country into unprecedented chaos - especially in the context of the economic problems that people are facing - they don't have food, the education sector is crumbling, the health sector is crumbling, transport is crumbling.

It is very dangerous and likely to plunge the country into chaos.

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