Cricket, sorry cricket

2008-12-03 00:00

LAST week a letter arrived from a gifted youngster trying to survive in Harare. “I had gone to fetch my mum’s medication,” wrote the youth. “It was 8 pm and I didn’t have any money so [I] had to walk home and I was passing by this small forest with two people who were going the same way. From nowhere a group of 10 men came up and said that they wanted us to sing the Zanu-PF national slogan. When none of us knew it they started beating us and then took some plastic bags they had and told one of my companions to take off his shirt and lie on his stomach then they started dropping those burning plastics on his back. I could hear his pain through his screams.”

Welcome to Zimbabwe. Death and decay stalk the land. The opposition is crushed.

Fake talks are held in an attempt to placate African leaders and loosen overseas accounts. Fortunes are stashed as citizens starve. An arrogant and pernicious political party rides roughshod over its own people. Hospitals and schools close down, water goes brown, food runs out, cholera spreads, an election is so badly lost that it takes two months to rig the result. God knows why we bother about some dust-up in a Brisbane bar.

Everyone talks about keeping sport and politics apart. It is rot. Politics is about Democrat or Republican, African National Congress or the Congress of the People, and it is no one’s damn business. This is about tyranny and humanity. Cricket stood firm against apartheid. How could such a diverse game act otherwise? Africa railed against white supremacy. India stood firm. Even the Western nations eventually understood. Cricket isolated apartheid. It ruined the careers of some great players, which was a small price to pay. Cricket could look itself in the eye. After all, some of the greatest modern leaders had emerged from cricket-playing countries. Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Mahatma Gandhi may never have bowled a leg-break between them but they set the benchmark for protecting the oppressed.

Now the downtrodden and vilified once again seek succour. So far they have received nothing ex-cept a slap in the face. It appears that black tyranny is not as bad as other versions. Accordingly the smug and ill-informed promoters of the game in this country and elsewhere ignore the suffering of the Zimbabwean people. Instead they talk blithely about restoring Test cricket to that benighted nation. In their arrogance they blame colonial conspirators, not despotism, for the disintegration of that nation. Let them go and live there. Let them seek treatment in a hospital or feed a family or attend school or fend off cholera. Let them speak their minds.

Make no mistake, Zimbabwean cricket is merely an arm of Zanu-PF evil.

Peter Chingoka, the long-standing chairman of a despicable cricket board, is allied to the influential Mujuru faction. He has mining interests, vast investments and houses overseas. Ozias Bvute, his thuggish CEO, is cut from the same stone. These fat cats have gained from the activities of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), Robert Mugbe’s youth militias known as the “green bombers” and all the other ghastly representatives of the repressive state.

Recently an International Cricket Council (ICC) delegation has been investigating the running of the game in Zimbabwe. It is a step in the right direction, taken despite protests. After all, $12 million was allocated to Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) last year and cricket is entitled to know how it was distributed. Judging from the unpaid hotel bills, unpaid wages, overgrown club grounds, cancelled matches and declining standards, precious little has been spent on cricket. Mind you ZC did manage to send 14 officials on its last U19 tour to South Africa.

Hopefully these delegates did not idle in five-star hotels sipping copious amounts of whisky with their hosts. Percy Sonn set the benchmark in that regard. The bitter, clever, late and unlamented former president of the ICC enjoyed expensive grog almost as much as his hosts and like them ignored the cries of the common man. Ray Mali, a foolish imposter who replaced Sonn, was promptly taken on the guided tour and announced that Zimbabwe was bound to go to the top of the one-day rankings. Chingoka, Bvute and their relatives must have smiled to hear this absurdity.

If the current delegates look under the carpet they will be shocked. They might contact past administrators, black and Indian. One recently resigned ZC official described Chingoka as “diabolical”. Likewise they must look at the country itself. Haroon Lorgat, COE of the ICC and a member of the delegation, was an anti-apartheid activist. He cannot have lost all his principles in the interim. The game looks towards him and Arjuna Ranatunga and Julian Hunte, but without undue confidence. Lorgat and the Indian bigwigs keep talking about ignoring politics. It is a sickening denial of responsibility.

Perhaps they might consider the rest of the teenager’s letter. He wrote: “They told me not to tell anyone [a]bout it. I still have nightmares but the thing that shocked me the most is how people in my country had ever turned to this.”

If these words are not enough to shame cricket into action they might consider Albert Camus who wrote: “In a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.”

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