Jul 21, 2017 Last Updated 2:00 PM, Jul 21, 2017

A young girl has been killed by a lion while relieving herself at night at the back of a hut in a rural part of Zimbabwe, a police spokesman told the state-linked Chronicle newspaper.

The aunt of the little girl, named as Mitchell Mucheni, saw the lion drag her into the bush, Assistant Inspector Kudakwashe Dehwathe said.

The child's body was later found about 300m away, he added.

The incident happened on Saturday night in Chiredzi.

Conflict between humans and animals is common in this south-eastern part of Zimbabwe.

Last month, Chief Maranda of nearby Mwenezi appealed to the national parks authority for help after stray lions killed livestock belonging to villagers.

Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authorities (ZimParks) has yet to comment on this latest case.

The Zimbabwean government has proposed a minimum mandatory 60-year jail sentence for people convicted of raping the disabled and minors.

At the same time, the government has proposed a mandatory 40-year jail term for all convicted rape cases.

Information minister Christopher Mushohwe, in a statement late on Tuesday, said the proposals had been made in cabinet as deterrent measures to help stem rape cases.

“Accordingly, government resolved as follows, that a sentence of 60 years of imprisonment be imposed for cases of rape of minors between 12 years of age (sic) and the disabled; and that a sentence of 40 years of imprisonment be imposed for the rest of the cases of rape or sodomy,” part of the statement read.

Mushohwe said the new proposals would help guide the proposed amendments to the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform Act [chapter 9:33]: minimum mandatory sentencing for rape.

The Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23 considers rape as sex with a person below the age of 16.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe returned home on Saturday after receiving medical treatment in Singapore, putting to rest speculation over the 93-year-old's whereabouts.

The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) later reported that Mugabe's wife Grace was injured in an "freak car accident" involving her motorcade at Harare airport as she returned with the president.

"(She) suffered some soft tissue bruising on the right ankle as a result," ZBC said, adding that she did not suffer any major injury and was discharged from hospital shortly after the incident. It is unclear exactly how Grace’s ankle was injured. 

The ZBC said Mugabe, who spent a week in Singapore, "had eye surgery in the Asian country a few years ago" and had returned for a "routine medical check-up".

Mugabe, in power since Zimbabwe's independence from British colonial rule in 1980, is his party's presidential candidate for next year's elections despite concerns over his age and fitness to rule.

This week's trip to Singapore was his third this year.

Public hospitals in Zimbabwe often suffer from chronic shortages of drugs and staff as the economy has struggled to rebound following years of mismanagement.

Mugabe's ZANU-PF party was forced to postpone a rally on Friday at which he was due to address supporters, triggering speculation about his whereabouts.

Early in 2015, he tripped and fell as he left a podium after addressing supporters  who had gathered at Harare airport to welcome him back from a foreign trip.

The same year he also read a speech to parliament apparently unaware that he had delivered the same speech before.

Mugabe's party is sharply divided over his succession. Vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa and Mugabe's wife Grace are seen as likely contenders to take over in the event of his death or retirement.

Opposition parties have formed a coalition to fight Mugabe's party in next year's vote.

Zimbabwe's state-owned airline has laid off 200 workers, roughly half of its staff, with immediate effect.

The job losses are part of a turnaround strategy to bring struggling Air Zimbabwe back to profitability from a $300m (£230m) debt.

Last month the EU banned it from using its airspace, citing safety concerns.

There have been major changes at the national airline since President Robert Mugabe's son-in-law took over as chief operating officer last year.

"We were overstaffed by a lot and we are also trying to weed out people without the right qualifications," the airline's chairwoman Chipo Dyanda said on Wednesday.

"The retrenchment is meant to give space to the airline so that we can redeploy the money saved back into the company."

An Air Zimbabwe spokesperson told state media that management has also been trimmed from 28 to just 12 and the finance department from 36 to 17.

The airline has struggled to keep afloat over the last decade and plans to carry out a restructuring exercise that will include retraining for all staff, including top management.

Unconfirmed reports say that a name change is also in the pipeline - a move many believe is an attempt to ring-fence the airline's debt and reduce the threat of creditors seizing the planes.

The BBC's Shingai Nyoka in Harare says that President Mugabe is a frequent flier on the airline, often leasing out the largest plane for state visits and private medical visits to the Far East.

In May, President Mugabe said that Zimbabwe was the most-highly developed country in Africa after South Africa. He denied that the country was in a fragile state.

Zimbabwe has been struggling to pay its civil servants recently and is ranked 24th on the UNDP's Human Development Index for Africa.

Zimbabwe overpowered their northern neighbours Zambia 3-1 to win the 2017 Cosafa Castle Cup on Sunday and take a record fifth title.

Knox Mutizwa, Talent Chawapiwa and Ocean Mushure all scored in a convincing victory for the Warriors, who took the trophy despite a rigorous schedule that saw them having to play six matches inside a fortnight.

They shrugged off the fatigue to get the better of Zambia, who had only come into the tournament halfway through and were playing only their third game.

A slip by Zambian goalkeeper Allan Chibwe offered Zimbabwe the opening goal after 18 minutes as Mutizwa managed to out-jump him and score, the ball fortuitously coming off his shoulder.

There were several other good chances - two from close-in free kicks - for Zimbabwe to extend their lead but Zambia levelled some six minutes before half-time with the first touch from substitute Lubinda Mundia.

He had just come on after Mike Katiba was forced off after a clash of heads and climbed between the Zimbabwe central defenders to head home from a corner.

After the break Zimbabwe had been expected to fade because of their tough programme but proved the stronger of the two teams.

Chawapiwa - named man-of-the-match - made all the difference with his runs on the right wing and scored in the 56th minute to restore Zimbabwe's lead.

Muitwa's initial effort came back off the upright and Chawapiwa reacted quickly to fire home a powerful shot from inside the penalty area.

He then set up Mushure for the third, pulling back his pass after drawing the Zambian defenders and allowing the veteran left-back to hit home in the 67th minute.

It proved an early final nail for Zambia who had little to offer in return despite coach Wedson Nyirenda making quick changes to freshen up his side.

Success for Zimbabwe continued the unbeaten record of veteran coach Sunday Chidzambwa in the tournament.

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