Darlington Majonga/Enock Muchinjo
ZIMBABWE Cricket boss Peter Chingoka has warned New Zealand will be in breach of International Cricket Council (ICC) regulations if they boycott their August tour of the cou
ntry, saying doing so would be unjustified.
New Zealand, scheduled to play Zimbabwe in two Tests and also take part in a triangular one-day international series including India, are under pressure from politicians to pull out of the tour on “moral grounds” in protest at President Robert Mugabe’s victory in recent parliamentary polls.
Chingoka, in an interview with IndependentSport this week, said the ICC does not submit to moral issues as justification for evading tours. He said moral issues do not form the acceptable non-compliance that is reserved for cases where there is lucid government interference and serious security fears in a host country.
“The ICC has in place a future tours programme which has a document called ‘members agreement’ attached to it. In that agreement, there is also what is called acceptable non-compliance, and member nations can only boycott a tour if it is only naturally acceptable to do so,” Chingoka said.
New Zealand risk a whopping US$2 million fine from the ICC if they refuse to tour, but the country’s cricket chief, Martin Snedden, last week said any players who refused to tour on moral grounds would not be punished.
The Black Caps’ captain Stephen Fleming yesterday said he would consider boycotting the tour. “If the information that I read suggests it’s probably not wise to go and that will make a difference, then that’s something I’ll consider,” Fleming told a news conference yesterday.
New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark at the weekend ratcheted up pressure on the Black Caps to snub Zimbabwe, although she conceded the players had the final say.
“I have to say that, if it were me, I would not be going,” Clark told the media in New Zealand. “Zimbabwe has just had an election that no reasonable person would agree was free or fair.”
Clark echoed sentiments of New Zealand’s minor Green party, which at the weekend said it had written to all players named for tour urging them to consider their positions.
Green joint leader Rod Donald said cricket meant a lot to Zimbabwe, “and not being able to welcome international cricketing sides would be a blow to the regime’s claims to legitimacy”.
Many Western countries have accused Mugabe of rigging parliamentary polls held on March 31 in which his Zanu PF won 78 of the contested seats against the opposition Movement for Democratic Change’s 41. One seat went to an independent candidate.
New Zealand refused to play in Kenya during the 2003 World Cup due to security concerns, while England boycotted their fixture against Zimbabwe in Harare on moral grounds.
England were also under political pressure last year to shun Zimbabwe although their December tour still went ahead, with Steve Harmison being the only player to pull out.
Sports enthusiasts and administrators in Zimbabwe have condemned the boycott calls, saying it was not necessary to mix sport with politics.
But Chingoka remains hopeful the Black Caps will fulfil the tour that Zimbabwe badly needs after a year of off-field wrangles that threatened the future of the game in the country.