independent sportview By Darlington Majonga
JAMAICAN reggae star Luciano was this week wheeled in to buttress state propaganda designed to portray Zimbabwe as a safe tourist destination.
is only the latest in a pathetic PR exercise under the aegis of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority which in the past has included usurping and commandeering beauty pageants.
No doubt these publicity stunts — ingratiatingly well-oiled by the state media — are targeted at glossing over Zimbabwe’s crisis ahead of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa which will lure droves of tourists to this region.
Does anyone care to tell us how many tourists have been to Zimbabwe since the country hosted the Miss Malaika pageant in 2002 at a huge cost to the taxpayer?
At least we can count the costs of the government’s misrule without effort.
Luciano incidentally visits at a time his kith and kin are considering whether or not they will be safe to play cricket in Zimbabwe later this month.
In July, West Indies did not hesitate to withdraw their A side from fulfilling a tour of Zimbabwe because of player security concerns.
Who would blame them if they can’t trust a country where opposition activists can be bashed while in police custody?
This probably explains the desperate propaganda surrounding Luciano’s visit: Zimbabwe is a safe tourist destination.
“It is our honour to celebrate our Jacaranda Jazz Festival with you and I hope your eyes will do the talking when you return to Jamaica,” Tourism minister Francis Nhema told Luciano.
“If you want to go to Mbare, Highfield or Chitungwiza we will make arrangements so that you preach what you would have seen.”
The Rastaman has been dutiful so far.
Luciano has since his arrival on Tuesday gratifyingly extolled President Robert Mugabe’s leadership, chanting the unoriginal rhetoric that the geriatric politician was still needed to extricate Zimbabwe out of marshland.
But hailing the land reform or heaping praises on Mugabe will neither put food on our tables nor make Zimbabwe a safer tourist destination – assuming safety has ever been an issue for those who want to visit the Victoria Falls, Hwange, Kariba, Matobos or the Eastern Highlands.
Coincidentally, Luciano’s see-and-tell-it-like-it-is tour was preceded by a visit —though unrelated — by another man from the Caribbean.
West Indies Cricket Board (WICB)’s cricket operations manager Tony Howard spent last week in Zimbabwe to assess the security situation in the country ahead of the Caribbean side’s tour scheduled for this month.
Although Howard has attempted to downplay the purpose of his visit, saying it was just a routine “pre-tour assessment”, we know why he was specifically here.
This happens four months after the Caricom politicians barred West Indies A from fulfilling a cricket tour of Zimbabwe on security grounds.
It must have been hard for the WICB to make an embarrassing climbdown and immediately declare Zimbabwe safe to visit.
Howard might have seen something that will stop the Windies from coming to Zimbabwe, but at least he should be encouraged that India A, South Africa and their A side as well as Sri Lanka A have toured the country without any incidents.
But whatever Howard and his security expert saw, it certainly has nothing to do with the security of West Indies in Harare.
If West Indies don’t want to come to Zimbabwe, they better give us another excuse.
Security — especially of tourists — is not an issue in Zimbabwe.
In that sense, roping in Luciano to depict Zimbabwe as a safe tourist destination is a futile effort and a sheer waste of taxpayers’ money.
Instead of a merry-go round with Luciano in a Hummer, why doesn’t the musician’s handlers let him out on his own at night to see if he will be harmed?
The Jah Man can hobnob with sistrens and ruggamuffins until the wee hours of morning if he wants; he can commute on public transport to the House of Nyabinghi in Chitungwiza if he so wishes.
And chances are high no one will touch him, unless he’s unlucky to have someone picking his foreign currency-lined pockets.
Fortunately too — and with respect – very few will recognise him on our streets because most of us have not seen him on television as we constantly don’t have electricity.
But more seriously, there’s no point in the West Indies Players Association refusing to fulfil an ICC Future Tours Programme series on the basis that their cricketers’ security will be compromised in Zimbabwe.
As for food, there’s no doubt whatsoever that Zimbabwe Cricket will make sure the West Indies have enough to eat.
The only people who can worry about their safety are opposition politicians and activists as well as those who dare point a finger at those they think are responsible for their penury.
The only people who can worry about food shortages in the country are us ordinary Zimbabweans who have suffered the consequences of never-thought-out populist policies.
Next will we hear West Indies refusing to tour South Africa because their brethren, reggae icon Lucky Dube, was shot dead in one of the numerous high-profile murders in that country?
Will Wipa tell us they will not tour Karachi because they fear bomb blasts?
Maybe next time the Windies will refuse to play at home in the Caribbean because former Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer is suspected to have been murdered there during the 2007 World Cup?
On that note, we can only listen if West Indies say they will not come to Zimbabwe on moral grounds.
We can only understand if the Windies are honest enough, just like the Australians, that they don’t want to come to Zimbabwe because of Mugabe’s alleged human rights abuses.
Still, if West Indies don’t come for political or moral reasons, that will be tantamount to cricket sanctions against Zimbabwe.
Do we as Zimbabweans deserve that?
If anything, cricket sanctions would give Mugabe a good chuckle.
By the way, it appears the Old Man will be with us for some time. Nuff respect!
Anyone who believes Mugabe would shed a tear if West Indies were to call off their scheduled tour of Zimbabwe might as well believe the veteran leader will spend the remainder of his old life in a monastery.
The Old Man is determined to remain in power no matter what you, me and even his wife may say.
Again the West Indians should know that if they take the Australian route their efforts would be nearly futile.
Having said security is not an issue, we sincerely hope West Indies will make a sporting decision instead of a political one.
Zimbabwe’s young and inexperienced cricketers need West Indies more than the Zanu PF government does.
The young players have a future and Mugabe doesn’t.