Zimbabwe's state media say a man allegedly killed three of his children with an ax and wounded two others in what police describe as Zimbabwe's most brutal crime in recent years.

The Sunday Mail newspaper quotes police as saying Elmon Mupombwa, 41, also torched his home in eastern Zimbabwe on Thursday and killed his livestock — five cattle, 20 goats and 17 chickens — before hanging himself.

It said the dead children were aged 11, 7 and 5. Their two siblings were in critical condition at a local hospital.

Police said Mupombwa had attended a tribal ritual conducted by a spirit medium, also known as a witch doctor.

The nation's economic and political turmoil has seen a rise in the use witchcraft and tribal sects to allay hardships.