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South Africa buys Mugabe's 'them and us' ruse


How to measure governments' economic performanceNext week South Africa flies across the Limpopo to play three 50-over matches against its neighbour and sometime rival. As far as can be told, the tour serves little purpose other than to fulfil a fixture list and to maintain contact between dispensations.

No one in their right mind expects Zimbabwean cricket to recover until the mass murderers and looters running amok in that country have been tried and executed or incarcerated in the rat infested hellholes into which opponents are dispatched. Now that the ANC is taking an interest in the State-sanctioned murders of the 1980s, it might care to cast an eye over the State-sanctioned massacre that took place in Matabeleland in the same period.

Argument is raging about the rights and wrongs of touring such an infernal, betrayed, lovely land. Familiar with tales of torture, Australia cancelled the visit scheduled for next month. The West Indies ‘A’ side has also refused to tour on the spurious grounds that players might be in danger. Many bad things can be said about Zimbabwe, but not that it is a security risk. Every fifth person works for state security.

Should South Africa refuse to tour Zimbabwe? Is it right to play sport as normal in an abnormal society? Notwithstanding the rules applied by the game's governing body, every country has a right to make up its own mind, and the same applies to every player. Few of the Australians had the stomach to appear amidst such torment, and the boycott came as a blessed relief. No-one understands the symbolic value of a sporting boycott better than this government. As many of us argued in the 1980s, sometimes it is just not right to keep playing ball.

As continentals committed to playing various sports in places of death and decay, South African officials may see things differently. Moreover, cricketing links with Zimbabwe have been strong for several decades and will not lightly be cast aside. If anything they are becoming closer. Last month SA cricket welcomed a group of emerging Zimbabwean players to its high performance centre in Pretoria. Reciprocal ‘A’ team tours have become commonplace.

In any case a boycott is not going to happen. To a fault, political sentiment hereabouts influences sporting policy. The politicians stubbornly refuse to stand side by side with the forces of economic and political liberation showing courage across the Limpopo. Instead the government defends the tyrant. Apparently unaware that they have been at war for seven years, Thabo Mbeki and his ludicrous Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs have voiced support for both the Zimbabwe government and its people. Mugabe's ruse in turning the slaughter and starvation over which he has so blithely presided into a ‘them and us’ confrontation has paid dividends. Lost in cleverness, Mbeki and his party have forgotten that they exist to protect the common African.

How to measure governments' economic performanceSince the tour is bound to take place, South Africa might as well take the chance to have a look under the carpet. To do that they will need to ignore their charming and untrustworthy hosts. Far and away the best thing about Zimbabwean cricket is its young black players, an intelligent bunch, proud and committed, exactly the sort of talent this country urgently needs to unearth. South Africa must discover how it has been done. And it must talk privately to the players to hear the truth about their lives.

Far and away the worst part of Zimbabwean cricket is the way it remains in the hands of ever more dishonest and desperate thugs — a small coterie with friends in high places and families living overseas in a luxury surprising in light of their breadwinner's modest stipend. The Peter Chingoka XI, as next week's opponent is called by every reasonable observer, is little more than a collection of underpaid and bullied youths amongst whom the mildest has been chosen as captain. Chingoka himself has become a nasty, corrupt, pitiful figure incapable of serving any cause save his own.

Chingoka's main ally, Ozias Bvute, is almost as bad and even more offensive. He is an ignorant loudmouth who knows nothing about the game, cares nothing about its players and understands nothing about the demands of international sport. Moreover he has a past best described as shady. Using the power of his notoriously nepotic office to deny them money, transport and succour, Bvute takes upon himself the role of intimidating the cricketers. Like Chingoka, he is Mugabe is another skin, and likewise has put his own survival and prosperity at the top of his agenda.

Such is the country and cricket community the South Africans will be visiting. But will they detect the truth behind the facade, or remain as pampered and pristine as the ANC election scrutineers in 2002?

No one expects these late winter matches be meaningful. Both teams have been pulled apart by tiresome administrators eager to placate politicians. Neither represents the power of the nation, but rather the desires of its post-colonial leadership.

Sport is an inexpensive way to appear radical, and much less troublesome than sorting out ailing hospitals or kleptomaniacs in office. Taking charge of selections is an easier way of appearing successful than actually producing players. Meanwhile truth tellers are sidelined and the show goes on.



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Existing comments

Another depressing article about a third world country. Unfortunately, most of the mainstream media in all first world countries do not provide any useful information about the real situation in places like Zimbabwe, especially the lack independent and strong institutions. Notwithstanding the policies and statements by the Howard government, first world countries like Australia have a vested interest in tolerating totalitarian and fascist governments such as the Mugabe regime. You only need to look at aboriginal communities in remote parts of Australia who do not have acceptable standards of housing, health, education and job opportunies.
Power to people like Peter Roebuck to bring us some of this information.

Why was this article not printed in the Age or SMH?

Mark Doyle | 23 August 2007  

Thanks Peter for this article. I have been following closely the dreadful situation in Zimbabwe for some time, especially through South African contacts. Like so many I am outraged, angry, helpless and frustrated that virtually the whole political world ignores the situation, yet countries like USA (and Australia) spend billions to topple leadership in Iraq with terrible consequences. How can ANC leadership is South Africa can support such a violent regime is beyond me. Thanks Peter.

kevin Treston | 23 August 2007  

Brilliant article. Indeed why is this not covered in the SMH and the Age.

Allan Thomas | 23 August 2007  

I agree, too. Why does the SMH not run pieces like this.l recall that they ran something about Zimbabwe by Peter after the second article in Eureka Street. Perhaps they will take the hint again? He clearly knows what he is talking about.

Richard Chamberlain | 23 August 2007  

Indeed, Mr roebuck, the tragedy unfolding in Zimbabwe beggars belief.

Maryrose Donovan | 23 August 2007  

Here is a man who both speaks and acts in the same way, that is, with unified purpose. Other commentators from these pages - Scott Stephens - could heed the lesson.

Alison E. | 23 August 2007  

It is beyond me how other african states support Mugabe - or at the very least, look the other way as he rapes and pillages his own country. How can it be allowed to continue?

Robert Harper | 23 August 2007  

Mr Mugabe is taking back what is rightfully his and his peoples and he is winning I say Go Mugabe because only a blackman knows what it is really like to be a homosapien

trawalla | 29 May 2008  

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