BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe -- Opposition leader Joshua Nkomo accused the Zimbabwe government Sunday of practicing 'tribalism and hatred' and allowing the military to rape, plunder and commit other atrocities against peasants.
Nkomo, in his first major address before a large gathering in three years, told 60,000 supporters and followers of his Zimbabwe African People's Union party that the military had not resumed food supplies to the southern province of Matabeleland, which is covered by a curfew.
Nkomo said the government of Prime Minister Robert Mugabe has claimed food supplies had been cut to prevent them from reaching dissidents operating in the area. But Nkomo said only peasants are being affected by the food cutoff.
The opposition leader said he believed Mugabe was trying to create a one-party state in Zimbabwe and that the curfew in southern Matabeleland was intended to terrorize members of the opposition.
'The people who make these statements on the curfew have regular meals every day and go out to parties at night and wine and dine,' he said. 'The people in charge of these curfew areas make statements but they don't take any action.'
Nkomo told reporters after his two-hour speech he had received several reports of atrocities against peasants in southern Matabeleland by the national army's North Korean-trained 5th Brigade.
'One hears of people being forced to lift up a bus and of being made to dig holes and fill them with their saliva by spitting,' he said.
He also gave reports of troops burning village homes and looting them.
He said he took two teenage girls to the capital, Harare, so that they could tell government officials how they had been repeatedly raped and forced to spend a week with government troops.
'We believe that what is happening has not been necessarily ordered by the authorities but that young men are doing things on their own. But when you appeal to the government for action and they don't do anthing, you come to believe that some of these things are arranged,' Nkomo said.
'We must fight against these things. You cannot have a one-party state with people torn to pieces by tribalism and hatred unless those in power are confused and continue with this gospel of hate,' he said.
Nkomo headed one of the biggest rallies in the country since Zimbabwe, formerly known as white-ruled Rhodesia, gained independence from Britain nearly four years ago and became black-ruled Zimbabwe.
He said he was surprised he was given permission to hold Sunday's rally at the soccer stadium in Bulawayo because previous requests for rallies in Harare had been denied.
Nkomo said a one-party state could only be introduced if the majority of the people want it.
'This issue can only be decided at a fair and free election where there is a secret ballot,' he said.