The Weekend Australian reported that “pressure is building on the Australian cricket team to call off its tour to Zimbabwe later this year and join a sporting embargo similar to the one that helped end apartheid in neighbouring South Africa.”
Frankly, I find it extraordinary that there is any prospect at all of any Australian sporting team touring that country whilst Mugabe remains in power. I appreciate there can be dilemmas with applying economic sanctions, as they can potentially harm the people who are already the biggest victims of the regime you are trying to pressure. But sporting boycotts are a different matter. It can always be argued as to where the line should be drawn on such things, but wherever the line is, Zimbabwe has crossed it a long time ago.
The shocking recent violence towards opponents of the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe is just a cruder than usual example of what has been happening for years. I met Sekai Holland, one of a number of opposition party members who have been hospitalised after vicious assaults, in Brisbane some years ago. She was touring Australia with a number of other members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to raise awareness of what was happening in Zimbabwe.
Since then of course, things have got much worse in her country. I’ve made the point a number of times, but it always bears repeating – however frustrating it may seem opposing government decisions and actions in Australia, it is nothing compared to the courage and challenges faced by people fighting for freedoms and rights in many other countries around the world.
It seems to me to be the least we can do to offer them support.
Stuart MacGill may be remembered as the unluckiest spin bowler in Australian cricket history because his career coincided with Shane Warne’s, which has kept him out of the Test team more often than not. However, he should also be remembered as the only one with the integrity and guts to pull out of the Australian cricket team’s last tour to Zimbabwe in 2004 – a decision which seems to me to have harmed his subsequent chances of selection.
When the former captain of the Zimbabwe Test cricket team, Andy Flower, is calling for a boycott, and the continuing atrocities have stacked up so staggeringly high, there really shouldn’t be a need for any further debate. One likes to think that the latest escalation of oppression is the sign of a regime in its final death throes, but that certainly can’t be guaranteed. Mugabe may finally be gone by the time the tour is due, but if he’s not, I hope our cricketers will this time be able to readily show themselves to be the top blokes we’re regularly assured they are.
UPDATE (23/3): After repeated confiscation of her passport by Zimbabwean authorities, Sekai Holland has finally managed to get out of the country, arriving in South Africa to receive further medical treatment. I received this email this morning from a representative from the Zimbabwe Information Centre, which came originally from Sekai’s husband Jim.
We secured a court order yesterday that instructed the police for the third time to leave Sekai and Grace kwinjeh alone, return their passports and allow them to leave the country as no charges had been laid against them, so there was therefore no possible justification for the continuing arrest. Today we flew out of the country by air ambulance, having been escorted to the airport by the Australian consul in Harare. The flight took 2.5 hours. In Johannesburg I was surprised to find the plane being surrounded by police vehicles – it seemed like a repeat of the Harare situation. However this time they had come to give us a friendly welcome and official escort to hospital, with sirens wailing. We were also met at the airport by a crowd of Zimbabwean supporters.
At the hospital there was a large crowd of press people, to whom I later gave a press conference that went well.
Sekai and Grace are now undergoing examination at the hospital and are finally out of the nightmare that is now zimbabwe.
Sekai is in good spirits as usual in spite of the pain she continues to suffer (although hardly ever mentions).