(dpa) - Zimbabwean soldiers went house to house in a poor suburb of the capital Harare Friday, beating up men and youths shortly before embattled President Robert Mugabe was due to give his first address to the nation since last month's elections.
A Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa correspondent saw between 30 and 40 soldiers travelling in two army trucks ordering families to come out of their homes in Glenview suburb.
The soldiers then told the women and the elderly to get back inside and turned on the men and boys, raining down blows on them with batons.
A bystander claimed the attack was in revenge for an assault on a soldier living in the area earlier this week - a claim that could not be immediately verified.
Otherwise Harare was quiet but the police presence heavy as Zimbabwe marked the 28th anniversary of its independence from Britain.
President Robert Mugabe, leader since 1980, was due to address the nation for the first time since March 29 elections the opposition claims he lost at an annual Independence Day rally in Harare's Gwanzura Stadium.
A military display, a feast and a soccer match usually form part of the celebrations but most people said they had little appetite for merrymaking given the uncertainty gripping the country in the wake of the presidential polls.
Nearly three weeks after the vote, the state-controlled Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is still refusing to release the results.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai claims he defeated Mugabe squarely. Mugabe's Zanu-PF party claims neither Tsvangirai nor Mugabe won outright and that a runoff is required, but the MDC is vowing not to take part.
An independent electoral observation NGO also predicted neither took more than 50 per cent at the first round but had Tsvangirai very close.
Tsvangirai claimed in a BBC interview Thursday the two parties had been close to a deal that would have ended Mugabe's autocratic and economically disastrous rule a few days after the election.
The MDC had been approached by Mugabe envoys about the formation of a unity government but the talks broke down because there were "others in the establishment who did not want to accept that."
Several newspapers have reported that hardliners in the security forces opposed Mugabe stepping down.