Armed men have attacked several opposition supporters as Zimbabwe braces for a wave of anti-government demonstrations on Friday.
At least three men with links to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) were abducted and badly beaten before being dumped on the streets of Harare on Wednesday.
Tatenda Mombeyarara, a human rights activist, and Blessing Kanotunga, leader of the MDC's youth wing in a Harare suburb, were both seized after heavily armed men broke into their houses on Wednesday morning. The third victim has not been named.
"Mr Mombeyarara was beaten up and attacked with a metal rod and then dumped at an isolated quarry. He managed to crawl to a nearby house where one of the residents took him to the nearest police station,” said Roselyn Nanzi, director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, an NGO assisting the men.
"He has a broken leg and his ribs are very sore. These men had AK47s and one had a pistol. They all had masks on and radio equipment,” she said. Africa's tarnished jewel: how four decades of Robert Mugabe left Zimbabwe's economy reeling
Tensions are rising in Harare ahead of planned demonstrations against president Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government on Friday.
Nelson Chamisa, the leader of the MDC, has called a day of strikes and marches to protest a spiraling economic crisis.
Mr Chamisa, who claims he won a disputed presidential election last year, is demanding the formation of a transitional authority to address the country’s economic crisis and ensure confidence in future elections.
"Every Zimbabwean will be marching to end this suffering until we achieve a legitimate people's government that will begin to address the serious challenges facing the country," Daniel Molokele, an MDC spokesman, told a press conference in Harare on Wednesday.
"Until that is achieved, we will not rest and we will continue to exercise our democratic right to demonstrate peacefully," he said.
Previous MDC-led protests over the past year have ended in deadly violence, and government and opposition leaders have accused one another of plotting disorder.
Nku Sibanda, a spokesman for Mr Chamisa, insisted that the MDC had taken measures to prevent a repeat of the violence of August and January, including training stewards to guide protest marchers and deploying camera teams to record violent incidents.
He claimed the army or undercover government agents might try to instigate rioting as a pretext for a crackdown.
Cain Mathema, the home affairs minister, accused the MDC Alliance of plotting violence on Friday and claimed they were “rounding up street kids” to take part in the protest march.
“We are also aware that some foreign nationals are now in the country on the pretext of being tourists yet they are activists who are working closely with the opposition political parties to organise the perceived demonstrations,” he said.
Mr Mathema appeared to be referring to the Centre for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies (Canvas), a Serbian group dedicated to civil disobedience.
Mr Mnanagagwa’s intelligence chiefs are convinced - and have formally briefed South Africa and the region - that Canvas has been training anti government activists from Zimbabwe for several years.
Mr Mombeyararara, the activist whose leg was broken on Wednesday, was one of seven Zimbabweans who were arrested after returning from on Canvas training event in the Maldives in June.
Zimbabwe government information personnel did not answer their telephones on Wednesday evening.
Soldiers killed at least six people when they opened fire on an MDC protest that turned violent following the disputed elections last year. In January, 17 people were killed and many more raped and beaten by soldiers following protests over a sudden rise in the price of fuel.