A leader of President Robert Mugabe's liberation war veterans was found dead in a shallow roadside grave in southern Zimbabwe.
Cain Nkala had been buried at Bulawayo, the country's second city, in Matabeleland, Wayne Bvudzijena, a police spokesman, said. Nkala was the chairman of the war veterans' association in the city, whose population strongly supports the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Veterans of the war against white rule in Rhodesia in the Seventies have become President Mugabe's principal tools in the elections due by May 2002. The veterans have occupied more than 1,500 commercial farms as part of the 77-year-old leader's campaign to resettle landless black people without paying compensation to the white owners.
Mr Mugabe's campaign has been particularly violent in Matabeleland because the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) has practically no grassroots support there.
Yesterday, Mr Bvudzijena said six people had been arrested over Nkala's disappearance. The MDC, which denied any role in the abduction of Nkala, said several of its members had been arrested but could not confirm whether the arrests were linked to the disappearance.
President Mugabe has stepped up the seizure of commercial farms and banned private groups from giving food aid to hungry people. Analysts see both moves as linked to his re-election campaign. He has used his decree powers to amend Zimbabwe's Land Act to allow officials to seize all farms listed for compulsory seizure, even those whose owners have lodged legal appeals against repossession.
The government said it had made the move, requiring farmers to stop work immediately and move out within three months, because they were abusing the court system to frustrate land reform.