Some of the worst alleged abuses by police have been carried out upon members of the civil protest group Woman of Zimbabwe Arise, most of whom are ordinary mothers. Of 397 members interviewed in a recent survey, 40 per cent said they had been tortured by police, and 26 per cent needed medical treatment for their injuries.
One activist, Angela Nkomo, revealed how she was taken to Fairbridge after taking part in a demonstration in Bulawayo early this year.
"We were forced to strip naked and lie on our stomachs before dozens of Black Boots beat us with baton sticks and leather belts," she said. "After that we were interviewed individually in a room full of male policemen while we were naked." Another member, Clarah Makoni, 19, broke down in tears as she recalled how she was forced to run through what she described as an obstacle course of electric wires. "The torture continued for hours," she said. "I was whipped while lying on my stomach. They then put me in a room full of ice."
According to the latest monthly report on political violence produced by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, during the first nine months of this year there were 776 cases of assault and 526 cases of torture - almost twice as many as over the same period last year.
Tendai Chabvuta, head of the forum's research unit, linked the increase in torture to the forthcoming congress of Mr Mugabe's ruling Zanu PF party next month. It is expected to ratify Mr Mugabe as its presidential candidate for elections due in March.
"It's quite clear that 2007 is the worst year for human rights in terms of politically motivated violence against opposition forces and human rights activists," said Mr Chabvuta....