At least six Zimbabwe activists were “abducted” and some of them beaten up as a heavy police presence in Harare prevented planned protests on Friday against President Robert Mugabe’s government.
Sylvanos Mudzvova, one of the protest movement leaders, told AFP that fellow activist Patson Dzamara and two others were admitted to hospital after being abducted by unidentified men who dragged them out of their cars.
“Dzamara and two colleagues were taken to the bush where they were beaten up,” Mudzvova told AFP.
“Three others are unaccounted for. They were blocked on the road and taken from their cars which were later found burnt.”
Social media photographs showed Dzamara, whose activist brother was abducted last year and never found, lying in hospital with whip marks on his back.
Speaking from his bed, Dzamara accused the security forces of being behind the attack on him.
“They said, ‘you did not learn from what we did to your brother. It’s now your turn,’” he told AFP.
Witnesses told AFP that about 20 people were also detained by police in a square in central Harare.
The police were unavailable to comment.
Frustration at Zimbabwe’s economic collapse under Mugabe has triggered a series of street protests this year, with security forces often beating up demonstrators.
Friday’s planned demonstration was intended to lobby against the government’s attempts to print its own “bond notes” currency to tackle the country’s severe cash shortage.
Many Zimbabweans fear the policy will revive hyperinflation that wiped out their savings 10 years ago and forced the government to abandon the Zimbabwe dollar in 2009.
The nation’s economy has been hollowed out by endemic corruption, drought, and government policy including land seizures and laws forcing foreign-owned companies to sell majority stakes to locals.
Zimbabwe uses the US dollar, but banks have run short of cash, and the government has repeatedly failed to pay soldiers and civil servants on time.
Unemployment is at about 90 percent, and thousands of companies have closed in the last three years.
The government says bond notes will be gradually introduced from later this month, but the date has been delayed several times.