Teachers beaten as police stand by

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Fifteen schoolteachers have been abducted and severely beaten by war veterans in Mudzi, about 160km north-east of Harare, in intensifying political violence in the run-up to Zimbabwe's general elections.

The teachers were forced to stop lessons on Wednesday afternoon at Chimukoko Secondary School and Kudzwe Primary School in the Mudzi area. They were then led to a secluded area by a group of 60 war veterans, who wielded axes and machetes, and were severely beaten. The war veterans immediately forced the closure of the local hospital to make sure that none of the beaten teachers would seek medical treatment.

One of the teachers, who cannot be named because of government regulations that bar civil servants from talking to the press, told The Independent that he and nine of his colleagues were freed by the war veterans after heavy overnight beatings. The remaining five, who were accused by the war veterans of being staunch supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), were still in captivity last night. A relative of one of them, Petros Muchenje, said no help had been obtained from police officials at a police post in Mudzi, who had been asked to intervene in the situation. "It's as if the police were under strict instructions to ignore pleas for help," he said.

Reports say the veterans have been deployed around different constituencies by the Mugabe government to intimidate opposition supporters.