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 Monday, 30 December, 2002, 12:28 GMT
Zimbabwe hits back in cricket row
England captain Nasser Hussain (right) leads his players off the field
England: Due to play in Zimbabwe in February
Zimbabwe has accused the UK Government of trying to "keep cricket white", in a growing row over whether England should play a World Cup match in Zimbabwe.

Jonathan Moyo
This is obviously not about safety and security, it just political mumbo-jumbo

Zimbabwe Information Minister Jonathan Moyo
Information Minister Jonathan Moyo told the state-run Herald newspaper that attempts to boycott Zimbabwe amounted to a "well-orchestrated" propaganda move.

His comments came after UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said England should not go to Zimbabwe, because of the human rights record of President Robert Mugabe's government.

However the UK Government cannot order such a move and the England Cricket Board (ECB) has been warned it could face a hefty compensation claim if it withdraws.

As ECB officials were expected to hold talks with ministers on the issue, England cricket captain Nasser Hussain urged the government to make the decision.

England are scheduled to play just one World Cup match in Zimbabwe in February, with the rest in South Africa.

'Political mumbo-jumbo'

Mr Moyo described as "false" concerns expressed in Britain and also in Australia about playing in Zimbabwe.

"This is obviously not about safety and security, it just political mumbo-jumbo."

"If the British and the Australians want to keep cricket as a white and colonial sport, then they should do so alone because we are not interested in their rubbish."

"They are forgetting that cricket is not like World Cup soccer or the Olympics. It is rather an exclusive and undeveloped sport not accessible to the black majority."

Earlier, Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said Nasser Hussain would be "endorsing" Mr Mugabe's government if he came to the country.

He said Mr Mugabe would exploit the match politically and the issue was symbolic, as a boycott would "send the right signal that Zimbabwe is an isolated country".

U-turn claim

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has heaped further pressure on the ECB by warning of a possible 1m compensation bill for pulling out of the Zimbabwe game.

It has already been made clear that England would effectively forfeit the match if it chose not to play for what the ICC calls "political considerations".

The Zimbabwean president has been criticised for his policy of seizing land owned by white farmers, and for systematic violence against political opponents.

The World Cup Match is being co-hosted by South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

 VOTE RESULTS
Should England play cricket in Zimbabwe?

Yes
 28.57% 

No
 71.43% 

56962 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion
Calls grow for World Cup matches in Zimbabwe to be boycotted

Zimbabwe decision

Background

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See also:

29 Dec 02 | Cricket
29 Dec 02 | Politics
16 Dec 02 | Sports Talk
28 Dec 02 | Cricket
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