Johannesburg: South Africans are a divided house over calls for Zimbabwe’s exclusion as a World Cup venue, recalling sports boycotts of South Africa in apartheid days.
The government is strongly in favour of matches being played in its northern neighbour, the Opposition just as vehemently opposed.
“We cannot have a situation where cricket authorities are now being pressured to reverse a decision that could jeopardise the staging of this global event in Africa,” said sports minister Ncgonde Balfour.
That prompted Afrikaner unity movement leader Cassie Aucamp to ask Tuesday: “Has the (ruling) African National Congress changed its well-known slogan of ‘no normal sport in an abnormal society’, as applied against the apartheid government'”
The official opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA), noted that “during the apartheid era the International Cricket Council was one of the strongest proponents of the sports boycott of South Africa”.
“It should now boycott Zimbabwe in the knowledge that Mugabe will use any World Cup matches played in that country as an affirmation of his leadership,” said a DA spokesman.
“It is of concern to note that undue pressure is now being put on cricket authorities in Australia and England to abandon their commitments in Zimbabwe,” said Balfour.
Deputy foreign affairs minister Aziz Pahad agreed. He said: “This political decision at this late stage is not in the interest of world cricket and not in the interest of trying to find a solution to the problems of Zimbabwe.”
NZ go Aussie way
New Zealand foreign minister Phil Goff is backing a call from Australia to boycott next month’s World Cup matches in Zimbabwe, the New Zealand Press Association (NZPA) reported Wednesday.
Goff said he would send a message, “not an instruction”, to New Zealand Cricket to consider asking the ICC to transfer all World Cup matches from Zimbabwe to other countries.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Britain’s Tony Blair have said they are opposed to their teams playing in Zimbabwe.
Australia and England are scheduled to play in Zimbabwe but New Zealand is not, playing its matches in Kenya and South Africa.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak urged England not to boycott a World Cup match in his country but said the tournament would survive even if they did not play in Zimbabwe.