Zimbabwe tour under threat

Darlington Majonga

NEW Zealand Foreign minister Phil Goff has threatened to bar the Zimbabwe national cricket team from touring in December ostensibly to protest against President Robert Mugabe’s human right

s record.


Goff, who campaigned in vain to have Zimbabwe barred from the 2002 Commonwealth Games in the United Kingdom, said the cricket team would not be guaranteed visas into New Zealand.


“The Zimbabwe cricket team should not anticipate that it will be granted entry to New Zealand,” Goff said in a statement yesterday.


Goff’s threats come at a time Zimbabwe is in the midst of a “clean-up” campaign that has been condemned by humanitarian organisations as a gross abuse of human rights that has left tens of thousands homeless after their homes were destroyed in the blitz.


“Given the current appalling abuses of human rights and the relentless trend of the Zimbabwe government towards a dictatorship, the New Zealand government would not welcome a visit from a side representing Zimbabwe at this time,” Goff said.


Goff, however, said he would take up the issue with the New Zealand cabinet for deliberation.


Zimbabwe Cricket officials were reluctant to discuss Goff’s threats.


“As a cricket organisation our window into New Zealand is that country’s cricket body. We cannot therefore respond to comments from any other parties,” Zimbabwe Cricket managing director Ozias Bvute told IndependentSport yesterday.


The New Zealand cricket team have been under pressure to boycott their own tour to Zimbabwe scheduled for August, with politicians claiming the stayaway would drive a strong message to Mugabe, who they accuse of manipulating the system to ensure a landslide victory in parliamentary elections held on March 31.


New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said she “would not be seen dead in Zimbabwe”, suggesting Zimbabwe would be a dangerous place to tour for the Black Caps.


However, Goff said the New Zealand government was not in a position to stop the Black Caps from touring Zimbabwe.


New Zealand Cricket has not bowed to political pressure, naming a full-strength squad that is expected to arrive in Zimbabwe on August 1.


“We hope to be welcoming the New Zealand cricket team to Zimbabwe and we’re happy they have committed themselves to the tour,” Bvute said.

Zimbabwe Cricket was this week still finalising the itinerary for the tour.


“Our main worry at the moment is to accommodate a warm-up match, and we would not allow anyone to deflect the national team’s attention from their thorough preparations,” another Zimbabwe Cricket official who preferred anonymity said.


Zimbabwe are scheduled to meet New Zealand in two Tests before the two countries are involved in a triangular one-day international series involving India.


Tatenda Taibu is expected to lead a strong squad that will include his predecessor Heath Streak, who was among 15 white players who walked out on national duty last April. The majority of them are back, including Stuart Carlisle and Andy Blignaut, who will be blended with promising young cricketers such as Hamilton Masakadza and Elton Chigumbura who held fort during the rebellion.


The Zimbabwe squad to face New Zealand is yet to be decided, although the Black Caps have already named a full-strength side.


Paceman Shane Bond has been recalled to the New Zealand squad that will also include captain Stephen Fleming as well as veteran campaigners Daniel Vettori, Nathan Astle, Jacob Oram and Scott Styris.