World Cup Cricket News 07/01/03
By Justin Lichterman
As debate rages about a possible World Cup boycott of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, the man who stole Zimbabwe, this week talked about forbidding the English and Australian cricket teams from entering Zimbabwe. Mugabe’s thug cabinet managed to persuade him otherwise, but only after conceding to strict limitations and monitoring of the touring teams. Once again, Mugabe has made the “don’t mix sport and politics” crowds look foolish.
Mugabe, apparently motivated by fears that the arrival of multitudes of British and Australian cricketers, officials and fans would provide cover for British MI6 agents to carry out a plan to kill him, has devised elaborate “security” measures to keep close tabs on the visiting players. Mugabe’s spy agency, the Central Intelligence Organization, will be deployed to monitor the visiting players using stringent and invasive measures, including having their accommodations and telephone lines bugged and at least three agents assigned to shadow each British and Australian cricketer or official. The plan is that they will track the visitors, and watch meetings with people in Zimbabwe, especially with opposition representatives.
As if the prospect of visiting Mugabeland under the pretense of normality were not odious enough, the players should seriously reconsider touring a country where their every movement will be scrutinized and their every conversation recorded. To Mugabe, there clearly is no distinction between sportsmen and spies; to him James Anderson may as well be James Bond. These intrusive, objectionable violations of international norms and diplomatic and individual standards alone are reason enough for the players to refuse to visit Zimbabwe. Were Sri Lankan (or Indian, or South African) players told they would be thus treated on a tour of England, they would be indignant and without doubt rightly refuse to tour, regardless of the broader political climate.
Mugabe’s attitude and rationale for excluding the tourists betrays his own politicization of sport. His attitudes mock the arguments of anti-boycott apologists; he is unconcerned with the “comfort” that touring cricket teams might bring to a starving and brutalized people, he clearly does not believe that the arrival of foreign sportsmen, officials and fans is detached from politics, and his apparent desire to have the tourists play their matches in Bulawayo only, and not at the Harare cricket grounds across the road from his official residence demonstrates that he has no hesitation in shifting the venue of World Cup matches when it suits his purposes, the expense of stadium renovations be damned.
And where are those authorities that vilified Australia for raising safety concerns about visiting Zimbabwe? Conspicuously quiet in the face of Mugabe’s ludicrous suggestions that Nasser Hussain and company are out to murder him, perhaps they think his concerns justified – after all, Ricky Ponting once participated in a violent bar brawl, didn’t he? Or perhaps John Howard has instructed Adam Gilchrist to kill Mugabe with a well-directed six hit out of the Harare sports club and into the official residence? If only it were so simple, Bob.
Apart from the security fears, sources said Mugabe also thought that prohibiting the cricket teams would be ideal retaliation for the sanctions imposed on him and his officials by the European Union, Australia, Britain and United States. As if to emphasize the point, Mugabe’s thugs have threatened that should the matches be moved out of Zimbabwe, the government would confiscate the Zimbabwean players’ passports and prohibit them from leaving the country to play elsewhere, a move supported by Namibia’s Sam Nujoma, who has threatened the same for Namibian players. So much for separating politics and sport.
Mugabe, who has already banned English Prime Minister Tony Blair, Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon and all British Government officials from his country, had told his cabinet he did not want the English or the Australian team in Zimbabwe. In a series of meetings last week, his ministers convinced him to admit the players and officials, with the winning argument being that hosting the World Cup matches would be a major diplomatic coup for Zimbabwe, particularly after England and Australian leaders Tony Blair and John Howard made public their support for a boycott. The hosting of the matches would also showcase Zimbabwe as a normal country, the ministers argued, although reporters accredited to cover the matches would be “ordered” to focus on cricket only – in other words, censored, unable to report the truth about Zimbabwe if they so chose. There is no clearer indication that the cricket World Cup is a political tool for Mugabe; allowing Zimbabwe to host matches is nothing more than a propaganda victory for a despot.
Politics has been thrust upon the sport, whether the ICC cares to recognize it or not. Cricketers are representatives of their countries, ambassadors of the game and the nations they represent. It is time to stop pretending that the World Cup has nothing to do with politics, that it’s just about hitting around a leather ball.
For Mugabe, its about the legitimacy of his regime, its about thumbing his nose at the Commonwealth countries and the civilized world; its about the unbridled flaunting of stolen power and genocidal policies. Its time for national governments to step up and prohibit their teams from visiting Zimbabwe.
The Abc of Cricket formally supports a boycott of all World Cup matches scheduled for Zimbabwe whilst Robert Mugabe continues to brutally starve and murder his own fellow countrymen. His racial villification of people’s of all colour, creed or nationality cannot and should not be tolerated by any person or government.
The world heavily punished a South African Governement for their apartheid policies, but stands frightened in the face of a mentally deranged lunatic who calls himself a nationalist.