Bulawayo - More remains believed to belong to some of the hundreds of villagers who perished during the Zimbabwe government's purge of Zapu supporters have been found inside a disused mine shaft in Kezi district in southern Matabeleland province.

The remains were found at the abandoned Antelope mine shaft about 3km from Maphisa.

Police confirmed the discovery.

Villagers said the remains could be those of scores of supporters of Joshua Nkomo's Zapu party who were said to have been thrown alive into the shafts by troops of the notorious Fifth Brigade.

"Hundreds of villagers in the area were abducted by the soldiers and thrown in the disused shafts. They were never seen again," said Sikhulu Ncube, a villager from Maphisa who survived the killings.

The slaughter of Zapu followers took place between 1983 and 1986 before Nkomo signed a unity accord with President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu (PF) party in 1987.

The signing of the unity deal saw the death of Nkomo's party and an end to the killings and disappearances in the Nguni-speaking provinces of Zimbabwe.

This is the second discovery of human skeletons in three years.

In 1996, skeletons believed to be of those of Zapu supporters were found in the same mine shaft.

Arms caches have also been found at another mine shaft about 28km from Kezi.

It is suspected that the caches belonged either to rebels who took up arms against the government in the 1980s or guerrillas of Zipra during the liberation war. - Independent Foreign Service