Zimbabwe cops beat, detain opposition protesters

Harare - Zimbabwe riot police detained a dozen opposition protesters and beat up others at a demonstration on Wednesday over high unemployment, an AFP correspondent witnessed.

Police armed with batons descended on around 100 members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in the capital Harare, days after its party leader advocated a wave of nationwide demonstrations.

Protesters were beaten and bundled into marked police vans as they headed toward parliament to present a jobs petition to the speaker of national assembly.

Police spokespeople were not available to confirm the number detained or if charges had been laid.

The group had marched through the centre of the city holding placards reading "We demand jobs".

The protesters want long-ruling President Robert Mugabe to fix Zimbabwe's economy, which has lurched from crisis to crisis over the last 20 years, bringing bouts of hyper-inflation and excruciating levels of unemployment.

Series of nationwide protests

An estimated 300 000 Zimbabweans have fled to neighbouring South Africa alone to look for work.

Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, is currently on a five-day visit to China, in a bid to drum up financial support and investment for agriculture and infrastructure projects.

The 90-year-old was re-elected last year in a disputed vote after promising to create jobs.

But the MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai - the runner-up in the poll - has suggested a series of nationwide protests against the government's failure to stem the economic meltdown.

Previous demonstrations against Mugabe's government have been brutally put down by the security services.

The latest demonstration comes a week after police quelled another MDC rally and arrested seven. Those protesters remain in custody.