Decency … hit for a six

2008-05-09 00:00

Remember Barney Rogers? Only cricket aficionados and family members will recall a young left-hander playing four "Test" matches and 15 one-day internationals for his country a few years ago. Although bright and gritty, Rogers is not an exceptional batsman and can count himself fortunate to have appeared in a "Test" match.

Of course the quotation marks are required, as only the thugs running Zimbabwean cricket and their Indian apologists imagine that those five-day affairs were played to a sufficient standard to command the respect of history. But times were hard and most of the country’s adult players had long since fallen out with the scoundrels in charge, so Zimbabwe had to send a youth team into the field. Rogers joined the Heath Streak rebellion and then changed his mind and, with their blessing, returned to the fold. But his career has faltered and little has been heard of him in the last 18 months.

And the reason for mentioning an obscure cricketer who, as far has can be told, has not thrown away any pictures of government dignitaries, or complained about blue light bullies, or written an offensive column, or dared to beat a liberation party at the polls or otherwise distinguished himself? Rogers’s parents still live in their country of birth and on Wednesday night they had some visitors. And not the kind popping around for rooibos and a rusk.

Deep into the night, a bunch of gangsters burst through the outer gates of the Rogers’s property, broke down the door of the house and, brandishing guns, threatened the occupants. Meanwhile these "war vets" were screaming the usual insults. In case anyone remains unaware of the nature of these brutish impostors, they are drug-crazed youths ruthlessly trained and brainwashed at ferocious camps to carry out violent acts on behalf of their masters in Harare. Their evil has been unleashed in the aftermath of Zanu-PF’s heavy defeat in the elections, a loss which, like the stagflation, the collapse of the economy and education and law and order and the courts and the health system, has been blamed on everyone else.

Merely threatening a middle-aged couple was not enough for these heroes. Instead, they fired seven bullets and set about assaulting them with rifle butts and so forth.

Both adults suffered smashed cheek bones. Bruce was beaten black and blue and X-rays revealed that two of his vertebrae had been broken. Mrs Rogers incurred a broken eye socket and several fractured ribs. Apparently her face was so badly smashed that she was barely recognisable. Both are now on retroviral drugs. Nice going, champs.

And it might have been worse. Do not assume that these little bullies intended to spare the lives of their victims. Neighbours heard the commotion, spread the word and bravely tried to save their friends. Luckily, they managed to track down five policemen, universally called "black boots", and lent them a truck so that, with heavy tread, they could go to the scene of the crime. By the time the black boots arrived, Bruce and Netty had been tied up in a car and were about to be taken away to be murdered and ditched. It has become a common practice, except when Thabo Mbeki, an Angolan leader, an ANC election observer or some other sycophant is around. This was not a happenstance crime, or long-delayed rage fuelled by the shameful wages paid by Africa elites of all complexions. This was repression.

Although deeply traumatised, the Rogers’ are recovering in hospital. Alongside them can be found other beaten up, supposed opposition supporters. It happens to black Zimbabweans all the time, but their stories remain untold because their names are not known. They can be dumped in the dead of the night. Of course the medical records of the victims have disappeared, whisked away by those responsible for the violence so that no official evidence could be presented to interested parties. But photographs and recordings are not so easily removed, let alone witness statements sent around by e-mail.

Thankfully United Nations representatives paid the medical expenses and prevented any further damage being done. And, to think, South Africa tried to suppress debate about the Zimbabwean crisis at the UN. Yes, there are worse regimes around, and they are in Africa. But these are neighbours and cricketing friends.

Just another day of death and destruction in the world. Just another blow to our cricketing family.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwean and Indian cricket officials shrug their shoulders and count their money and say it has nothing to do with them. It is a damnable lie.

Peter Roebuck is an international cricket

correspondent who is based in the KZN


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