N Korea’s World Cup warm-up in Zim ‘called off’

2010-05-24 10:04

The controversial pre-World Cup warm-up session in Zimbabwe for the

North Korea national football team has been called off following threats of

protests in the southern African country.

The North Korean squad had been due to arrive in Zimbabwe tomorrow

to train and play friendlies against the local teams before moving onto

neighbours South Africa, where the World Cup kicks off on June 11.

But a senior source in the power-sharing government of President

Robert Mugabe and former opposition leader, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai,

said the visit was called off after it provoked outrage among supporters of

Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

North Korean army instructors in 1983 trained the then newly-formed

Zimbabwean army brigade that went on to slaughter thousands of civilians during

an insurgency in the western provinces of Matabeleland.

Reports put the numbers killed in the operation, which ended in

1987 after the opposition, Zapu of Joshua Nkomo, entered a union with Mugabe’s

Zanu-PF party, at between 8 000 and 20 000 civilians.

Most of the victims were members of the Ndebele-speaking minority

and supporters of Nkomo.

Tourism Minister Walter Mzembe, a Mugabe appointee, invited North

Korea to warm up in Zimbabwe, in an attempt to showcase the tourist potential of

the economically depressed country to World Cup viewers and visitors.

The team from the Korean dictatorship of leader Kim Jong Il, a

Mugabe ally, had initially been due to stay in Bulawayo, capital of

Matabeleland.

Zimbabwe’s government later switched the base to the capital Harare

after activists in Bulawayo threatened to disrupt training sessions and

games.

At the weekend, a senior government source from Tsvangirai’s party

told the German Press Agency (DPA) that the visit had since been cancelled after

Mzembe came under pressure from the MDC not to invite the Koreans.

Minister of Sports David Coltart, who comes from the south and

belongs to a splinter MDC faction, also said: “I do not think they are still

coming to Zimbabwe for camping. I have no clue as to why they are no longer

coming.”

Mzembe would not confirm or deny the reports, only telling DPA: “I

cannot say they are no longer coming at this stage. We are still talking. We

have a few things to clarify.”


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