| Olonga: Looking to start a new life in Kenya or England
London: Zimbabwe pace bowler Henry Olonga’s international career came to an end last night in dramatic circumstances with a secret journey to a safe house somewhere in South Africa.
He will hide until he is able to start a new life in a different country — maybe in Kenya where he was born and where he has family still, or England, where he could take advantage of asylum.
Olonga’s last few hours as an international cricketer were spent nervously looking over his shoulder, lest there was a tap on his shoulder that could have threatened his life.
Seven plainclothes officers from Zimbabwe’s secret police, believed to be from the central intelligence organisation, arrived in East London on Friday and were entertained by World Cup organisers during Zimbabwe’s 74-run defeat by Sri Lanka on Saturday.
Their real purpose for being in the sleepy, coastal town was more sinister than watching their country’s emotionally ravaged cricket team bow out of the World Cup, a report in The Sunday Telegraph said.
Olonga has received numerous threats during the last month but this one was different. He had been told the officers intended to “escort him home” where a likely charge of treason awaited.
The punishment for treason in Zimbabwe is death.
The drama began in mid-afternoon when officers from the World Cup-appointed close protection unit came to the players’ hotel and packed all of Olonga’s personal possession in case he was intercepted after the match.
Olonga appeared on the field to perform 12th man duties early in the afternoon to create the impression that everything was proceeding as normal. But things were far from normal despite Olonga’s impossibly courageous attempts to stay calm.
“He was pretty shaken but he seemed to be coping as well as anyone can in a situation like that,” said a teammate after the match.
Olonga along with Andy Flower wore black armbands in their opening match of the tournament and issued a joint statement mourning the death of democracy in Zimbabwe, a gesture that earned world-wide praise and also the wrath of the political regime in Zimbabwe.
Andy Flower too quit international cricket on Saturday, a step widely believed to have been taken due to the fall-out of his protest.