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Gary Younge
Leader's gaze falls on the ordinary Zimbabweans he betrayed

His eyes do not follow you around but are fixed in a glare which is too stern to be avuncular but not piercing enough to be sinister. Omnipresent and omniscient - there is no escaping the father of the nation.

In Ward One lies one of his victims. Florence Mutengiwa was badly burned when supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF party smashed the windows in her home, threw grass inside, poured petrol on it and set it alight while she and her husband Ishmael were sleeping.

The attackers locked the door from the outside, leaving Florence and her husband to burn. They were just two of the dozen or so black farmers on the Dean farm near Marondera, east of Harare, who were beaten and burned because they were sus pected of supporting the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

They are now in the frontline of the power struggle in Zimbabwe as Mugabe supporters have switched their intimidatory tactics away from white farmers to their labourers - one of the most poorly paid and downtrodden sections of the nation's workforce.

The couple were transported to the hospital in Marondera in the truck of their employer, Craig White. Ishmael, a farm supervisor, escaped with only burns to his hands, others had their arms broken.

Florence was not so lucky. Her top lip, nose, cheeks and forehead are all charred and puffy. Her left eye is nothing but a squint; her head is horrifically misshapen. She is a young woman who did not so much lose her looks as have them brutally taken away from her - possibly forever. Her face is so swollen that she cannot speak.

Outside the ward young men in Zanu T-shirts roam the yard making sure that nobody else speaks either.

A small group of patients admitted yesterday with newly broken limbs shoo the Guardian away as one of the Zanu supporters approaches. A foreman who was killed nearby 10 days ago had his lips cut off and was paraded around the area as a warning to his peers to keep quiet.

Underneath a portrait of Mr Mugabe, the hospital administrator Dr Mojak sits in denial. As a government employee he is almost certainly a member of Zanu.

At the mention of Monday's attack at Dean farm he shuffles nervously and starts to stall. First he says Florence is not there; then that he has no knowledge of her being there; and finally that she is there but it is not possible to see her without first talking to the minister of health.

Because of an influx of patients with cholera and diarrhoea Florence's admission had completely slipped his mind, he insists. "You must go through the official channels," he says, "to protect her human rights."

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