President Robert Mugabe's government has set up secret camps across the country in which thousands of youths are taught how to torture and kill, the BBC has learned. The Zimbabwean government says the camps are job training centres, but those who have escaped say they are part of a brutal plan to keep Mugabe in power.
Former recruits to the camps have spoken to the BBC's Panorama programme about a horrific training programme that breaks young teenagers down before encouraging them to commit atrocities.
A whole country is being brutalised, to keep Mugabe in power:
During covert filming inside Zimbabwe, Panorama also spoke to a camp commander who told the programme that youths in his camp had been sent to kill opponents of President Mugabe.
He said: "In the area I am covering I heard of two. My superiors instructed that the people must be eliminated."
What is more frightening is that President Mugabe now wants every Zimbabwean youth to undergo training. We have been told they will be used to intimidate political opponents in next year's elections.
The commander added: "These guys are going to be used by the ruling party to keep the opposition out of power."
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez praised Zimbabwe's embattled President Robert Mugabe as a "freedom fighter," bestowing the visiting African leader with a replica of South American independence hero Simon Bolivar's sword.
"I give you a replica of liberator Simon Bolivar's sword," Chavez said Thursday after the two leaders signed an energy co-operation agreement.
"For you, who like Bolivar, took up arms to liberate your people. For you, who like Bolivar, are and will always be a true freedom fighter," Chavez said. "He continues, alongside his people, to confront the pretensions of new imperialists."