Australian government scraps Zimbabwe cricket tour
by Robert Smith
SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia's government Sunday barred the national cricket team from touring Zimbabwe in September, saying it wanted to avoid giving a propaganda victory to "grubby dictator" President Robert Mugabe.
Prime Minister John Howard, who has repeatedly expressed concerns over the deteriorating situation in the southern African nation, said his government had taken the decision out of Cricket Australia's (CA) hands.
Howard said it was not fair to leave foreign policy matters with sportsmen, preferring that the government accept responsibility. He urged other cricketing nations to follow suit.
"We don't do this lightly, but we are convinced that for the tour to go ahead there would be an enormous propaganda boost for the Mugabe regime," Howard told ABC television.
"The Mugabe regime at present is behaving like the Gestapo towards its political opponents, the living standards of the country are probably the lowest of any in the world and you have an unbelievable rate of inflation.
"I have no doubt that if this tour goes ahead it would be an enormous boost to this grubby dictator and whilst it pains me both as a cricket lover and as somebody who genuinely believes these things should be left to sporting organisations... it leaves me with no alternative."
Zimbabwe reacted angrily, describing the ban as "desperate" and "racist."
"The Australians are mixing politics with sport and the decision shows how desperate the Howard government is to isolate Zimbabwe," junior information minister Bright Matonga told AFP.
"Australia is one of the worst human rights violators in this whole world. Look what they have done to the aborigines and yet they have the audacity to stand up and claim to have the moral authority to condemn us.
"This is also a racist ploy to kill our local cricket since our cricket team is now dominated by black players as we slowly transform cricket from being an elite sport."
The International Cricket Council (ICC) indicated Cricket Australia was likely to escape a potential US two million dollar fine for pulling out because the government had made the decision.
"It is not the role of the ICC to make political judgments. That is for politicians," ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed said in a statement.
"It is unfortunate for Zimbabwes cricketers and supporters, all of whom need exposure to top-quality cricket in order to develop as players and to encourage future generations to take up the sport," he added.
Cricket Australia (CA) chief James Sutherland said his organisation would consider playing Zimbabwe at a neutral venue.
"Given our commitment to help Zimbabwe cricket develop, we will now explore the possibility of playing the three one-day internationals we are due to play against Zimbabwe at a neutral venue outside Zimbabwe," he said.
Howard indicated his government would enforce the ban, if necessary, by stopping the use of the cricketers' passports to leave the country.
"It's pretty obvious to me that the players and the body (CA) wanted to act in conformity with public opinion but in the end, not surprisingly, they wanted a situation where the decision was taken by the government and not the players," Howard said.
"I don't think it's fair to leave a foreign policy decision of this magnitude on the shoulders of young sportsmen.
"It's much better, in the end, for the government to take the rap.
"I hope the rest of the cricketing world understands that and it would be a very good idea if the rest of the cricket world adopted the same attitude towards Mugabe's regime.
"I'm not going to stand around and allow some kind of aid and comfort be given to him (Mugabe) by the greatest cricketing team in the world visiting his country."
Australia captain Ricky Ponting said he was "comfortable" with the move.
"I'm comfortable that the Australian government has taken the responsibility for making international affairs decisions on behalf of the country," he said in a statement.
The Zimbabwe tour has become a major topic of debate in Australia, with a majority of the public and church groups urging a boycott.
Howard, who has repeatedly urged Zimbabwe's African neighbours to do more to oust Mugabe, said it was difficult for countries such as Australia and Britain, viewed as the "old, white west," to interfere.
Monday, May 14, 2007
I’m not really sure what to say about this article but I think that the title of this blog entry says it all. I think that if more people took a stand against Mugabe and his regime, we would see change there that much sooner.
Posted by MsTypo at 12:40 PM