Adelaide: Protests against the World Cup match between Zimbabwe and Australia in Bulawayo on February 24 are likely to turn violent, the Australian government said Sunday.
Foreign minister Alexander Downer said Australian High Commissioner Jonathon Brown had spent the last two days in the African city and reported to the government that Zimbabwean police was likely to meet protests aggressively.
“His report says, firstly, that the opposition in Bulawayo don’t want the cricket game to go ahead,” Downer said on Sunday. “Secondly, he believes there will be demonstrations mounted by the opposition and others in Bulawayo at the time of the game.
“Thirdly, he has been unable to get a commitment from the Zimbabwean police that they won’t react to demonstrators in a disproportionately aggressive way, thereby undermining the security situation.”
Downer said the government has passed on the report to the ICC and the ACB. The Australian Prime Minister has called on the ICC to move matches away from Zimbabwe because of safety and political concerns.
“There won’t only be the Australian cricketers and their support staff, there will be quite a number of Australians present at the game as spectators,” Downer said. “So we naturally remained concerned about the security situation. It is our view that the International Cricket Council should move the games from Zimbabwe to more appropriate locations in Africa.”
A report from Potchefstroom says ACB officials will update their team this week on the security situation in Zimbabwe.
A spokesman for the Australian team said ACB chief executive James Sutherland, cricket operations manager Michael Brown and players’ representative Tim May were expected to arrive on Tuesday.
World Cup champions Australia have expressed reservations about the match after reports of possible violent protests against President Robert Mugabe.
Meanwhile, ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed said that demonstrators who are injured, or worse, during protests would not be the responsibility of the ICC.
“What we are doing in Zimbabwe — running cricket matches — is perfectly legal, and we will do that to the highest possible standard in terms of safety and security,” he said.
“Zimbabwe is going through a difficult political and economical time, no-one disputes that. People are not demonstrating against us holding cricket matches. Demonstrators are taking advantage of the international media’s presence, as an opportunity to get their message through.”